Culture and Education | Custodia Terrae Sanctae

The Terra Santa Schools

Among the activities of the Custody, the educational and formational is of particular importance and this is directed both toward the local population and religious and lay people coming from all over the world. In 1550, with the opening of the first parochial school in Bethlehem, followed then by Jerusalem and Nazareth, a long tradition of scholastic formation for youths was inaugurated.

There are currently fifteen schools, on three different continents, for almost 10,000 students.

The attention of the Custody is geared also to the process of education in tolerance and peaceful respect of creeds, of emancipation of women in society and of the extension of instruction to all, even to the most poor.

Studium Biblicum Franciscanum

Next to the formative gift of the schools, the Custody promotes its activity of research and scientific formation through the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum. The SBF is a scientific institution for research and academic instruction on the Holy Scriptures and on the archaeology of the biblical countries. It was founded by the Custody of the Holy Land in 1901 and has been operating uninterruptedly since 1924. Since 1960, it has been part of the Pontifical Antonianum University of Rome. In 2001, it developed into the Faculty of Biblical Sciences and Archaeology. It includes two cycles of specialization, Licentiate and Doctorate in Biblical Sciences and Archaeology, based at the Monastery of the Flagellation. The Studium Theologicum Jerosolymitanum is connected to the SBF as the first cycle of theology, with its headquarters at the St. Savior Monastery, including a Biennium Philosophicum that takes place in the same scholastic structure.


Muski Centre

Another important institute is the Muski, or the Centre for Oriental Studies of Cairo, which concentrates its studies and research on the Christian communities of the Middle East. The main activity of the Muski is publications, which represent invaluable documentation for Christianity in the Middle East. The centre has a library unique of its kind: more than thirty thousand volumes and a good collection of Oriental manuscripts in Arabic, Syriac, Coptic. Armenian, Turkish and Persian.

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Studium Theologicum Jerosolimitanum

The Studium Theologicum Jerosolymitanum is linked with the SBF as the first cycle of theology, based at the convent of St. Saviour, aimed mainly at training candidates for the priesthood. Founded in 1866, it has welcomed hundreds of students of many nations and different continents and expanded itself progressively and continuously.

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Libraries and historical archive


Libraries of the Custody

Although all the convents of the Custody have their own library, there are some of varying degrees of importance according to how old they are and their contents. We can mention those of Aleppo (Syria), Alexandria and Cairo in Egypt, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Ain Karem and Harissa near Beirut, all from the 17th centuries. The ones in Nicosia and Larnaca (Cyprus) are slightly earlier, at least in their first collections (16th century). All have works of value, especially on Oriental studies: grammars and dictionaries of oriental languages, the Fathers, theology, apologetics, catechisms, history, geography etc. The recent libraries to be mentioned include: that of the convent of Bab-Touma, in Damascus, which was burnt down in 1860, but rebuilt and subsequently well stocked; that of the Franciscan Biblical Institute of the Flagellation in Jerusalem which, founded in 1929 with books transferred from the central library of St. Saviour, has been continually enriched; and the most recent one, which is that of the Centre for Oriental Studies of Cairo. The most well one that is most well known for its antiquity is the library of the main monastery of the Custody of the Holy Land: the Monastery of St. Savior in Jerusalem.

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The Historical Archive of the Custody

The Historical Archive of the Custody of the Holy Land has a history of more than seven centuries. It is held to be the oldest catholic archive existing in the Holy Land, and documents not only the vicissitudes of the nearby religious institution, but also that of the catholic presence in very many regions of the Near East. Because of its difficult history, the archive has changed its name in the course of the centuries and only in 1975 did it take its current name of “Historical Archive of the Custody of the Holy Land”. In the spring of that year, in fact, the work of renovating and adapting the places destined for its exclusive use was finished in the Monastery of the Holy Savior, where today it continues to be.

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The Magnificat Institute


The Magnificat Institute of Jerusalem is a School of Music erected in the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem in 1995. The only one of its kind, it promotes the study of music, offering a professional preparation, but, above all, a place of dialogue and of education in peaceful coexistence, where children and young Muslim, Christian, and Jewish youths study together united by their common passion for the art of music.

The Magnificat Institute also has responsibility for liturgical services in the Holy Places (such as the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem and the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem). The Institute, moreover, offers high-level, academic teaching which allows students to attain European university diplomas and awards.

At the moment, the school hosts over 200 young students and about 18 professors, with growing success. The Magnificat teaches: Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello, Organ, Singing, Guitar, Composition, Flute, Percussion, Choir, Solfeggio, and the History of Music.

Terra Sancta Organ Festival

Terra Sancta Organ Festival

The Terra Sancta Organ Festival is one way to bear witness to the presence of the Christian communities in the Middle East and the Levant in the field of music and culture. Here, organ music is a superior artistic contribution perceived as specifically Christian, the pipe organ being present almost exclusively inside churches. The festival is also an opportunity to promote the maintenance of organs and the study of this instrument, necessary for the liturgy.

The unique feature of the Terra Sancta Organ Festival is that it is being held at the churches and shrines of the Holy Land and in the locations where the Franciscan Friars of the Custody of the Holy Land have been active for centuries: Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria.

Terra Sancta Museum

Terra Sancta Museum

The first Franciscan museum opened in 1902 in a room within the St. Savior Monastery in Jerusalem. The long history of the museum continued in the Flagellation Monastery in Jerusalem, where the museum was relocated and where it was inaugurated on February 10 1931. More than a hundred years after its foundation, an general renovation project has led the Franciscan museum to take the name of Terra Sancta Museum.

The mission of the Terra Sancta Museum is to let the world know about the roots of Christianity and about the history of the Christian presence in the Holy Land, through the extraordinary archaeological and historical-artistic collections of the Franciscans of the Holy Land.

The museum currently consists of three sections:

  • A multimedia section (inaugurated in 2016) consisting of a multimedia installation that leads to the discovery of the Via Crucis on the Via Dolorosa. At the Monastery of the Flagellation in Jerusalem, the visitor is immersed in an atmosphere made up of lights, sounds, ambient noise, stories and animations, and he or she is transported to the time of Herod where the dramatic events of the passion, death and resurrection of Christ took place.
  • An archaeological section (inaugurated in 2018), which is also located in the Monastery of the Flagellation on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem. During the tour that includes six rooms, the visitor can discover archaeological finds related to the political institutions of the Herodian period and to the daily life at the time of the New Testament up to the first experiences of monasticism. The archaeological section will also include extraordinary specialized collections from Egypt and Mesopotamia.
  • A historical section (whose inauguration is scheduled for 2020), which will be hosted in the Monastery of St. Savior in Jerusalem. Since September 2016, an international scientific committee led by Béatrix Saule (Director Emeritus of the Castle Museum of Versailles) has been working on a common strategy for the fundraising and setting up of this new museum. It will include extraordinary and rare collections of sculpture, paintings, jewelry (chalices and candlesticks), illuminated manuscripts from the 1400s and 1500s, furnishings, liturgical vestments and precious archival documents, rare pharmacy vases and armor, objects largely donated over the centuries by the European Royal Houses, by the Italian Republics and by the State of the Church to show their devotion to the Holy Places and to support the Custody.