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Vocations “come and follow me”

Antonio Barluzzi, an architect in the Holy Land

What do the Basilicas of Mt. Tabor and of Gethsemane have in common? Or the façade in Crusader style of the Flagellation and the cubic, almost Cubist, tent of the Shepherds’ Field in Beit Sahur?
One man: Antonio Barluzzi.

Barluzzi, an Italian architect, consecrated his life to the Lord whilst remaining a layman.
Or was it prayer that made him a tireless architect and never short of imagination? For each of the 24 churches, hospitals and schools that he built or restored, between 1912 and 1955, Barluzzi adopted a style that was ancient, such as on Mount Tabor, where he was inspired by the church of St. Simeon, in northern Syria – and, at the same time, totally renewed, such as for Dominus Flevit or the Shepherds’ Field. He focused his attention on the tiniest detail, both for the architecture and the decoration of the buildings, mosaics, frescoes and windows, even going so far as to design the lamps for the holy places.

This is the atypical and nationalistic – as people at that period used to be – figure, a fervent Christian and tireless traveller that the two papers at the conference held at St. Saviour’s Convent brought back to life on the fiftieth anniversary of his death.
The first was written by Mr. Giovanni Maria Secco Suardo, a friend of the Barluzzi family who unfortunately could not be present for family reasons. It was Fr. Giorgio Vigna, commissioner for the Holy Land for Piedmont who read the paper which, full of anecdotes, brought back to life the man, the historical context and the spirituality of the architect.

The second paper was given by Mrs. Giovanna Franco Repellini. She came across Antonio Barluzzi a few years ago, when she made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. An Italian architect herself, Mrs. Repellini was impressed by Barluzzi’s creativity and, realizing that his work was practically unknown, she set out to study it and make it better known. The result of this fascinating work is what she unfortunately only briefly presented at the conference (due to lack of time, not passion).

The two papers will shortly be put online on the Custody’s website, but those who live in the Holy Land and who missed the conference on the day, still have time to visit the exhibition on Antonio Barluzzi, open from Monday 20th December at the Christian Information Centre on the occasion of these commemorations.
Concluding the evening, the Custos of the Holy Land said that there is no shortage of proposals – some of which at times are bizarre – for the restoration and adaptation of the holy places. Nevertheless, it is through increasing our knowledge of what prevailed in the choice of the current buildings that we realize how much care is necessary in preserving this heritage, the precious evidence of an era, a style and a faith.

Mab



A LIST OF BUILDINGS DESIGNED, BUILT OR RESTORED BY ANTONIO BARLUZZI

1. The Church of All Nations in the Garden of Gethsemane.
2. The Church of the Transfiguration, Mount Tabor.
3. The Church of the Hospice of the Good Shepherd, Jericho.
4. The Church of the Flagellation, Jerusalem (restoration).
5. The Church of Visitation, En Karem.
6. The Cloister of Bethlehem (restoration)
7. The Church of St Lazarus, Bethany.
8. The Church of the Angels, Shepherds Fields, Bethlehem.
9. Dominus Flevit, Mount of Olives.
10. The Church at Bethphage (restoration)
11. A School for girls in Jericho.
12. A hospital in Amman, Jordan.
13. The Kerak Hospital, Jordan.
14. The Church of the Beatitudes, Galilee.
15. The Armenian Catholic Patriarchate, Beirut.
16. Churches and other related buildings in Amman and Madaba, Jordan.
17. The Parish Churches in Beth-Saur, Irbid and Zerka.
18. A new house for the Carmelite Fathers of Haifa.
19. The Church at Mount Carmel.
20. The Convent of St Antony, Jerusalem.
21. The Ethiopian Monastery (restoration).
22. The Italian Legation premises at Teheran (restoration).
23. Terra Santa School, Jerusalem.
24. The Greek Church of the Holy Face and St Veronica, Jerusalem (restoration)

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