In their new location, which will be blessed February 28, 2013, the Historical Archives will again be part of the Custodial CuriaCustodiale. | Custodia Terrae Sanctae

In their new location, which will be blessed February 28, 2013, the Historical Archives will again be part of the Custodial CuriaCustodiale.

On February 28, 2013, the Custodial Curia in Saint Savior Monastery will see the inauguration of the new facilities of the Historical Archives of the Custody of the Holy Land.

On this occasion the inventory-catalog of the archives, published in three large volumes under the title Historical Archives of the Custody of the Holy Land (1230-1970) will be presented.

Part of the collection of Holy Land studies, the celebrated Bio-bibliographic Library of the Holy Land and the Franciscan Orient, the inventory-catalog opens the fifth Serie-Sussidi, published by Holy Land Publications in Milan.

The Historical Archives of the Custody constitute a precious patrimony that dates to the beginning of the presence of the Friars Minor in the Holy Land and the origins of the Order, inspired and promoted by Saint Francis and his historic voyage in these lands.

Since then, the Friars have been careful to collect every useful document and testimony that touches on the Holy Land, relating to both major events and day-to-day happenings.

In this way, the first Custodial archives took shape at the Mount Zion and Saint Savior monasteries, as well as at each of the monasteries of the Custody throughout the Middle East region.

The Historical Archives of the Custody of the Holy Land are among the largest archives existing in the Middle East; they are certainly the largest and most important in the Catholic Middle East.

The collected documents reflect the history of these regions, from the Crusader period to our day, also testifying across the centuries to the various historic eras, from the Crusades through the Mamluk period, the British mandate and the Jordanian mandate, and continuing to the modern period of the Israeli State.

Many sections of the archive illustrate the mission of preserving and protecting the Holy Places that the Sovereign Pontiffs confided to the Friars Minor in the 14th century and which they continue to this day.

Today the historical heritage preserved in the Custody Archives is available to all. Its value is inestimable not only from a historical point of view, but also because of the incontestable importance of certain of the documents.

One need only cite the papal bulls, beginning with the oldest: the bull of Pope Gregory IX, which is also the oldest document in the archive. In the Breve Si Ordinis Fratrum Minorum, Gregory IX exhorts the Patriarchs of Antioch and Jerusalem, the Legates of the Apostolic See, archbishops, bishops, and all ecclesiastics to receive the Friars Minor kindly and to permit them to build their own oratories and to preach for the good of souls in their respective dioceses and parishes.

Next the famous firmans should be noted, those legal documents published in the Arabic and Turkish languages that describe properties and rights of the Custody of the Holy Land, beginning with the oldest, published in 1247, which concerns the property on Mount Zion, in which Jacques, superior of the Monastery of Zion, together with other religious and dragomans who were summoned to the tribunal use legal documents to testify that the land belonged to them, and had done even before Omar. The tribunal pronounced in favor of the religious.

Included in this section of the archives are also the illuminated firmans of 1600, underlining the value of the archives from an artistic point of view as well.

There then follow the pilgrim registers, in which were noted the names of pilgrims arriving in Jerusalem. The pilgrims had to present themselves to the Father Custos of the Holy Land and present him the authorization received from the ecclesiastical authorities in their home country that permitted them to make a pilgrimage in the Holy Places, and receive a pilgrim's laissez-passer from the Custos, allowing them to complete the pilgrimage. The registers with names begin in 1561 under the title Navis Peregrinorum.

Another type of artistic-historic document is represented by the registers containing the names of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher, also known as the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem. After the fall of the crusaders, the power to invest Knights fell to the Custody of the Holy Land from 1496 to 1847, when the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem was reestablished. These registers begin in 1561.

Also included with the artistic-historic documents are the parish registers, which begin in 1555, the Custodial Chronicle of each monastery, and many other historical documents, classified in sections of the archive by their provenance and specificity.

The archives are divided into several large sections: archives of the Custodial Curia, archives of the bursary, archives of religious houses, parish archives, archives of houses of formation, the Casa Nova hostels, and personnel archives, without forgetting the photographic and cartographic collections.

The new archive facilities, which will be blessed on February 28, will now once again be part of the Custodial Curia. A "Visit" will give a good opportunity to see and become familiar with the documents on which is founded the history of the Custody of the Holy Land.

These documents are important in:

• Illustrating Catholic rights over the holy places (Pius X) and replying to lies or imprecision with regard to the Franciscans in the Holy Land (Custos L. Cozza and R. Razzoli);
• illustrating the Franciscans' work in the Holy Land (Pius X), particularly for compiling annals and Chronicles (Custos P. Da Lodi);
• providing a source for the study of Palestinology. (Pius X).

The new Historical Archives of the Custody of the Holy Land contain rooms for researchers to consult documents, a lecture hall, office space for the archivists, and spaces for studying and photographing documents (even those in large format).

The archives also feature sections dedicated to papal bulls, firmans, historical and geographical maps, maps and plans of properties and structures – all arranged in sliding cabinets or drawers. The other sections are arranged in sliding cabinets.

The reorganization and cataloguing, physical relocation, and publication of this very important work have been realized thanks to the authorization and support of the Custos of the Holy Land, Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, and to the work of the Custodial Archivist, Father Narcyz Klimas.

Coordination and composition of the files and the publication were provided by Prof. Andrea Maiarelli.

Publication of the catalog by Terra Santa Press in Milan was supervised by Dr. Elena Bolognesi.

The relocation and adaptation were coordinated by the Custody’s Technical Office.