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Franciscan Friary,
St. Francis Str. 1,



Date: 01.01.2005
Source: Custody of the Holy Land

Terra Sancta College
(Historical Sketch)

The Terra Santa College complex was built in 1926 on the top of a hill in the Jewish quarter of Rehavia, Jerusalem. It was one of the first buildings to be constructed on the site, together with the first houses of the Arab quarter of Talbieh built in 1923.
The main complex of buildings has four floors and was designed by the Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi in a symmetrical monumental style, and with a typical architectural structure in neo-classical style, common during the end of the nineteenth century. Adjacent to the main complex there is also a chapel and a residence built in 1933.
The height of the building as well as its triangular shape, with a façade overlooking one of the important crossroads of the city, give this complex its imposing aspect. It also has one of the landmarks of the new city of Jerusalem, with the tower crowned by a statue of the Immaculate Conception, which is a copy of a statue of the Virgin found on top of the Cathedral of Milan.
The complex, built by the Società di San Paolo of Milan, was known as the “Opera Cardinal Ferrari”. At first it served as a school for two and a half years, and then it had to be closed down owing to lack of funds. The institution was then acquired by the Holy Land Custody which opened a College on the premises in October 1929, starting an Elementary and Secondary School for “boys with good social background and intelligence... coming from all faiths and nationalities”. In 1942 the students came from different religions and nationalities. They were 475 in all, and comprised Arab Christians, Muslims, Armenians, and Jews. The College remained open for eighteen years (1929-1947).
The organization, study programmes and activities mirrored the English system of Public Schools. Besides the scholastic programme the College also fostered numerous other sports, cultural, social and recreational activities, with the aim of enriching the physical and spiritual formation of the students. In 1931 the College started to publish The Review of the Terra Santa College. This publication was stopped in 1942 because of the lack of paper during the war. In 1941, owing to the international political situation, the Italian form of the name “Terra Santa” was changed into the Latin form “Terra Sancta”.
In the beginning of 1947 the complex of Terra Sancta College was enclosed within the British Security Zone B, with the consequent impediment of having professors and students able to commute to classes, and thus its activities were forcibly terminated. At the end of the British Mandate, on 15th May 1948, the Haganah, the Israeli military organization, took possession of the complex, and on 15th November 1948 the Hebrew University of Jerusalem received the building on lease from the Holy Land Custody. The College served as an academic and administrative centre of the University, whereas the Custody continued to officiate the Chapel and to maintain its own presence.
The negotiations between the Hebrew University and the Holy Land Custody led to the signing of an agreement in 1998, which accepted the reutilization of the entire complex for the activities proper to the Custody. Renovation works were carried out during these last years in a good part of the premises.
From the year 2004 the Terra Sancta College is once more a stable Franciscan fraternity. It is the seat of the Cultural Centre of the Holy Land Custody. It functions as a house for students of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum – Faculty of Biblical Sciences and Archaeology, as well as for voluntary workers who collaborate with the Custody in various fields: pastoral, cultural and social. The College is also an annex of the Latin Parish of Jerusalem.
The Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception collaborate also with the Franciscan fraternity present in the College.

Bibliografia: D. Kroyanker, The Terra Santa Compound, Jerusalem. Biography of a Place – Profile of a Period 1926–1999, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem 1999.

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