Latin Church of the Assumption 12, Sh.el-Bendâqa (Bein es-Surein)
Atabah – B.P. 381
11511 Musky – Le Caire /Musky – Cairo
The Activity of the Custody of the Holy Land in St. Saviour
Egypt has always played – as it does still today – a leading role in the history of the Middle East and in particular in the stories of the Bible: Abraham, Joseph, Jacob, Moses, and finally the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph who sought refuge here from the infanticidal wrath of King Herod.
The Franciscan fathers of the Custody have been in Egypt for centuries.
Egypt was visited by St. Francis himself who, during his voyages, among Egypt, Syria and Palestine, stayed here for several months during 1219-1220. This was the period that saw the famous encounter between the Little Poor Man and the Sultan Melek el-Kamel. In a time of war, at the height of the Crusades, Francis of Assisi leapt over the trenches to meet and dialog with the sultan, who was commonly seen as the enemy <em>par excellence, </em>the infidel. This act was a prophetic example of dialogue and a testimony to respect for different cultures, an example that today has so much to say to people of our times.
Today the Franciscans look after the great Musky convent, the long-time center of the large Latin parish of Cairo.
The development of the parish of Musky reached its climax in the last decade of the nineteenth century and the first two decades of the ’900, when it served around 20,000 people: these were mostly Italians, but there were also a good number of Maltese, Austrians, Slavs, French and Oriental.
The church of Muski, a cathedral since 1858, was a reference for all these nationalities, as witnessed by the rich archive of the parish of which the first entries date back to 1611.
When the parish was flourishing, during the Lent services would be conducted in 5 languages: Italian, Maltese, French, German and Slavic.
The parish was left virtually empty after the Egyptian revolution of 1952.
It was at that time, in order to make better use of the convent, that the Center for Christian Oriental Studies was founded. The principal aim of the Center is the development of studies relating to the Christian communities in the Middle East. The Franciscan Center for Christian Oriental Studies, with the rich heritage represented by its library, offers invaluable possibilities for study and research, and provides a major cultural service to the Christian and Muslim world. The network of relations that it maintains with institutes and individuals throughout the Middle East and the West allows it to serve as a valuable instrument for promoting coexistence and overcoming divisions and differences.
The friars of Cairo, in addition to their studies on the Christian communities of the Middle East and their unceasing welcoming of students, both Christian and Muslim, aiding them in their research, are also assiduously engaged in helping the residents of the overpopulated and impoverished Mouski district, in particular children, adolescents and large families. During the daytime, they take in children and assist many poor families with their primary necessities, notably their daily food and their most critical medical expenses.
The principal aim of the Center is the development of studies relating to the Christian communities in the Middle East and the documentation of the life and history of the Franciscans in the Holy Land. Two principal activities of the Center were established, and remain to this day: a) contact with the Christian and non-Christian cultural world, both local and foreign; b) publication of studies and research on those communities.
The library is divided into two large sections: general (theology, history, geography, art, etc.) and specialist materials, i.e., the cultural heritage of each of the Middle Eastern Christian communities: Copt, Armenian, Syrian, etc. These specialist areas include the Arab Christian section, that is, Christian religious-cultural material written in Arabic. Currently the library is considered to be one of the best in Cairo, and unique in its genre, on account of its specialization. It contains more than 50,000 volumes, in addition to a large collection of journals and Arab-Christian and Western magazines, as well as manuscripts (more than a thousand, not counting a collection of Islamic ones which are still uncatalogued).
The Organ of Musky
“A good repair of this organ would be very appropriate. An organ concert in our church, noble and archaic, would attract a large number of listeners, especially as currently in Cairo there is no suitable organ, capable of sustaining a concert.” We forward this appeal by Fr. Vincenzo Mistrih, Honorary Director of the Franciscan Center for Christian Oriental Studies in Cairo. If there is benefactor who intends to help us make the voice of this organ heard again, both in concerts and during the liturgy, please contact us.
For the following description, we thank the author, Fr. Mistrih.
In the 1930s, it was decided to replace the old organ with a new one. The equipment arrived in Musky all the way from Germany in 1939, just before the start of the second world war. The installation had to be postponed. It was eventually done in 1948, under the supervision of the Mr. Braun, a German engineer that was chosen because the organ was German made. Pictures of the organ are below.
The late Fr Augusto Facchini had longed to play it, but death snatched him a few months before the inauguration, which took place on March 27, 1949. The organ, neglected, was looked after and fixed by myself. From 1985-89, I was transferred to Alexandria. In the meantime, the church underwent renovation works and it seems that the workers took away some of the pipes. The situation is that three registers have no pipes. We tried to repair with pipes from here and there, but with little success.
Here is a brief description of the organ:
1) Subbass 16 (legni);
2) Bourdon 16;
3) Octave basse 8;
4) Choral basse 4;
5) Bass flut 2;
7) Basson 16;
8) Bourdon 16;
9) Prinzipal 8;
10) Bourdon 8;
11) Salicional 8;
13) Praestant 4;
14) Mixtur 4 rows;
19) Sub II/I;
20) Super II/I;
21) Super I;
22) Geigen Prinzipal 8;
23) Flut harmonique;
24) Celeste 8;
25) Gemshorn 4;
26) Quint nazard 2,2;
27) Piccolo 2;
28) Voix humaine 8;
29) fagot oboe 8; 30)
The following are in a good state: 1, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 22, 23, 24,
16, 25, 26, 27, need to be tuned.
28, 29: pipes missing.
3, 4, from First and Second Manual;
8, 10, complementari;
8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 22, 23 excelent.
6, 12, 15, empty.
Now, to fix this organ we need at least the follwoing registers in the second manual:
Voce celeste 8 (number 24),
Gemshorn 4 (number 25),
Piccolo 2 (number 27),
Voce umana (number 28),
Oboe 8 (number 29)
A mechanical device to open the sliders of the second manual
A bellow with a windchest to replace the “accordeon type” bellow
A balanced expression pedal
And if this is difficult, we would need at least two registers:
Voce umana (numero 28),
Oboe 8 (numero 29)
P. Vincenzo Mistrih, Musky, 2304/5/