Why a Museum next to the Bethesda Pools, with its memory of the cured paralytic in the Gospel, and the remains of a Byzantine church? The answer lies in the history of the site and its impact. It all started with the dream of a Bible teacher, Father Léon Cré, who asked himself a question: “How can I bring the Holy Scriptures to life for my students and pilgrims?”
In 1878 the first White Fathers arrived at Saint Anne’s and soon after opened a Greek Melkite Seminary in 1882. Father Cré joined the seminary team as a lecturer in 1886 and wanted to share his enthusiasm for the Bible and archaeology with students and pilgrims. He began to collect different artefacts that would illustrate Bible stories and soon his room looked like a small museum.
When Father Léon Cré died in 1922 and was buried in the crypt of Saint Anne’s Basilica, his collected objects and certain elements found in the excavations of the Bethesda Pool formed the basis for our present day Museum.
In 1925 the museum already had 5 different sections:
- Biblical Section - with artifacts that helped to visualize the biblical stories,
- Numismatic Section - with a collection of coins,
- Ceramics - with 1500 pieces of pottery,
- a big section of Oil Lamps - and
- Prehistory - with tools and material objects of Antiquity.
Some of the White Fathers, helped by the Dominicans, tried to approach the collection from a scientific point of view, starting with the classification of the pottery selection.
Later, in 1967, the Seminary was transferred to Lebanon but the Museum’s collection remained in Jerusalem. Many different scientists helped to sort, order and classify the collection. From 1988 to 1991, a young French archaeologist working in Saint Anne - Rémy Vallejo - created the first catalogue of the Museum with 3750 files and photographs of all the artifacts.
After the year 2000, the Museum cooperated with France’s Institut National de Patrimoine and opened its doors to a few young archaeologists and students of archaeology. This cooperation has brought many very positive results, including an electronic database of the collection, the restoration of a number of sarcophagi and ossuaries, the classification of many cuneiform tablets and the cleaning, describing and securing of many artefacts.
The young scientists helping the White Fathers tried to foresee the best future possible for the small Museum, and it was decided new adjustments and the modernisation of the space would be required to meet new demands at Saint Anne’s. At the moment, the renewed Museum is still under construction and is not yet ready to welcome visitors, but we will inform you as soon as it is ready and look forward to welcoming you soon…