Via Dolorosa - POB 19424, 91193 - JERUSALEM Tel. +972 2-6282936, +972-2-6280271, +972-2-6264516
Fax: +972-2-6264519; E-mail:

The Archaeological Museum

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visit the SBF Archaeological Museum

Opened in 1902 in the Franciscan monastery of St. Saviour's, it was an adjunct of the newly founded (1901) Franciscan Biblical School at the same monastery. Initially the display contained, among other things a cache of medieval liturgical objects known as the "Treasure of Bethlehem', and a collection of Eighteenth century faience from the St. Saviour's Pharmacy. Fr. Prosper Viaud is credited with first organizing the Museum. He was assisted by Brother Emile Dubois who produced some plastic models of Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

These first exhibits were soon enriched by two large and important collections, one of ancient coins from Egypt donated by Fr. Hyacinth Tonizza, and the other of Egyptian items donated by Brother Cleophas Steinhausen.

The Museum was reorganized in 1924 by Fr. Gaudentius Orfali, of Nazareth, one of the pioneer Franciscan archaeologists.

When the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum began to operate independently at the monastery of the Flagellation, the Museum was transferred there as an important complement to the study and research of students and professors. It was the task of Fr. Gianmaria Amadori to arrange the collections in the ground level rooms of the Monastery on the Via Dolorosa 11 Station. Fr. Amadori, a botanist, reserved one room for Palestinian flora and fauna, including an exhibit of animals that he had stuffed and mounted himself.

On February 10, 1931 the Museum was opened in its new and permanent location. In 1939 its first catalogue appeared, prepared by Fr. Bellarmino Bagatti. The first curator of the Museum was Fr. Sylvester Saller, an American archaeologist from Chicago, whose own findings at excavations on Mount Nebo, Ein Karem and Bethphage, greatly enhanced the exhibition rooms.

In 1954 Fr. Saller was succeeded by Fr. Augustus Spijkerman, a Dutch numismatist, who continued as curator until his sudden death on June 23, 1973. To Fr. Spijkerman the Museum owes its specialization in numismatics, more particularly the coinage of the Roman period found in the cities of Palestine, the Decapolis and the Province of Arabia (Transjordan).

In October 1974 Fr. Michele Piccirillo was entrusted the task of curator, in a period when the Museum was already distinguished in the scientific world for its collections and their considerable historical value A new step in the Museum 's progress was now in order. With the ever new materials coming from the excavations of the professors of the SBF, the developing Museum was running out of space. Some kind of selectivity was necessary. It seemed convenient to re-order the exhibits according to the excavations themselves.

Therefore three rooms were dedicated to the excavations at Nazareth, Capharnaum and Dominus Flevit, respectively. This prominence was due in view of the importance these sites had in commencing a new era of Christian archaeology in the Holy Land, in unraveling the problem of Christian origins, especially the history of the Judaeo-Christian communities of Palestine.

In order of importance the other rooms are subdivided among other excavations made on the Mount of Olives, in the sanctuaries of Jerusalem and its vicinity, in the desert of Judea, in Transjordan, and in two Herodian fortresses Machaerus and Herodion. The purpose is to characterize the SBF collection in such a way as to be correctly perceived as Jerusalem's archaeological Museum of Christian origins, at the service of scholars and pilgrims who, in ever greater numbers, visit the Holy Land.

The Museum also has a small quantity of Mesopotamian and Egyptian objects, a series of XV cent. paintings, XIV cent. antiphonaries, some liturgical and biblical manuscripts and a complete collection of pots from the ancient pharmacy of St. Saviour's monastery (XVII-XIX cent.).

On the ground floor a large room is dedicated to an epigraphic collection with inscriptions in Greek, Latin, early Hebrew, Syriac, Saphaitic, Thamudic, Arabic, paleo-Babylonian and Assyrian, Coptic and Georgian, with a predominance of the Greek language. The room also contains architectural elements and pieces of different periods. The center of the room is occupied by the restored baptistry basin from the Constantinian basilica of the Holy Sepulcher.

Recently, a private collection was added to the Museum belonging to the late Fr. Godfrey Kloetzli OFM who died on October 27, 1992.

OPEN Tuesday-Saturday; 09-13 / 14-16

Phone (972) - 2 - 6270456 / 6270444

Press here to virtualy visit the SBF Archaeological Museum

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Created/updated: Thursday, December 6, 2001 by John Abela ofm
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