New General Library and Archives of the Custody of the Holy Land Inaugurated. | Custodia Terrae Sanctae

New General Library and Archives of the Custody of the Holy Land Inaugurated.


On Thursday, February 28, in Saint Savior Monastery of Jerusalem, the new facilities of the General Library and Archives of the Custody of the Holy Land were inaugurated.

The day began with a presentation of the new General Library. Father Marcelo Badalamenti, Custodial Librarian, recalled that since the beginning of the 13th century, the Franciscans in the Holy Land owned books and, without doubt, a library, while toward the middle of the 14th century, they received custody of the sites connected to the life of Jesus. There is, however, no definite documentation. On the other hand, one of the volumes preserved here attests that beginning in 1521, when the friars were installed in the monastery on Mount Zion, there was a library and a German professor gave them some of his books. In recent years, there has been a complete renovation of the library at Saint Savior Monastery, where the Custody of the Holy Land’s headquarters is housed; it has been moved to a new site and a new online catalog has been produced.

Those attending the inauguration were not only able to see the new arrangement of the books and collections, but were also able to admire some of the volumes from the two most precious collections, the cataloging of which has recently been completed. These are the collection of incunabula and cinquecentine, studied by Doctor Luca Rivali, and the collection of Itinera ad loca sancta, studied by Doctor Alessandro Tedesco. They were, in fact, presented by Doctor Alessandro Tedesco, who also supervised the exposition catalog, published by the Bibliographic Society of Tuscany, in collaboration with ATS Pro Terra Santa.

Participants at the inauguration also heard a presentation about what went into the new facilities: the long labor of organization, reorganization, and indexing of existing documents, terminating in the publication of the first printed catalog of documents preserved in the Archives (The Historical Archives of the Custody of the Holy Land, by Andrea Maiarelli, Milan. ETS, 2012, 3 v.). In his brief introduction, Father Narcyz Klimas, Custodial Archivist, spoke about the history of the archives, their formation, but most of all of their importance as the historical memory of Franciscan life in the Holy Places and their role as guardians. The Friars are still careful to collect every useful document and testimony about both major events and everyday life; the Custodial Archives are just one example of the many archives present in the various monasteries throughout the Mediterranean region.

In a very detailed presentation Professor Andrea Maiarelli of the Theological Institute of Assisi then illustrated the new catalog and the layout of the archives, with its various collections and the documents they contain. Maria Cominancini, Tiziana Nandesi, and Valerio Vestrelli discussed their experience in the Custodial Archives, the work of cataloging, and the numerous difficulties encountered and resolved.

At the end of the morning came the talk by Father Custos Pierbattista Pizzaballa, who, in discussing the work completed and the energy invested in the project, emphasized how "it is necessary to focus our identity, to have a clear perception of reality, to be capable of having a vision, to give ourselves perspective," because "in books, in documents, in the archives, — that is, in our history — is our future."

Emilia Bignami