Our map of Jerusalem and surroundings is the one sketched by the Gospel and by the pilgrims during the centuries and it has no relation with the current political situation.
The presence of the Custody of the Holy Land in Jerusalem dates back to the 13th century: since 1559, its headquarters are located in the Convent of St. Saviour. The main locations under the care of the Custody are:
St. Saviour’s Monastery
1 St. Francis Street (New Gate)
Church opening times: 6:30 – 8:30 working days; 8:00 – 12:00 / 17 – 19 Sundays and holidays
The Activity of the Custody of the Holy Land in St. Saviour
If Jerusalem is the beating heart of Christianity, the Convent of St. Saviour is the heart of the Custody of the Holy Land. It is here that the Custos resides and the Curia has its offices. Here the many activities of the Custody take place:
Near the convent are situated the pilgrims’ hostel, Casa Nova, the Christian Information Centre and the Terra Santa School, the high school for boys and girls.
The Church of St. Saviour
The Church of St. Saviour is located inside the walls of the Old City, just behind New Gate and it is visible from anywhere in Jerusalem thanks its tall and elegant bell tower.
The Order Friars Minor of the Custody of the Holy Land took possession of the Convent of St. Saviour in 1559, after being driven out in 1551 from their first home, the Convent of Mount Zion. In other words, the Holy Coenaculum, where they were based since 1335, having bought the place from the Sultan of Egypt (the original document of the transaction is still preserved). Because it was not possible to celebrate mass and pray in the Coenaculum (a problem still unresolved today and a cause of tensions with the local Jewish community), the Pope Pius VI issued the document Divina disponente clementia on July 17, 1561 and moved to the Church of Saint Saviour the indulgences of the Coenaculum: this was confirmed in 1885 by Pope Leon XIII on the occasion of the renovation of the church and its dedication. The Custos of the Holy Land – who carries also the meaningful title of “Guardian of Mount Zion” – celebrates here the Pontifical Mass of Maundy Thursday and of the Pentecost until, God willing, the time will come when we will be able to celebrate again at the Coenaculum.
Already in 1630, the Church of St. Savour had an organ, one of the two that for three centuries could be heard in Jerusalem, the other was the one of the Holy Sepulchre. (See Metodio Brlek, The Church of St. Saviour, Franciscan Printing Press, 1985 – this publication containing many details, anecdotes and a bibliography is available online at www.edizioniterrasanta.it)
The new church was built in 1885 and was equipped with a new organ. With the years, the organ underwent several interventions. Starting as an organ with a mechanical tracker system built according to the Venetian tradition by the company Callido-Bazzani, it was refurbished by the organ maker Locatelli from Milan. Later on, the organ making company Vegezzi-Bossi, working in Lombardy and Piedmont, equipped the organ with a pneumatic transmission system. Around the year 1960, the organ maker Tamburini, from Genova, built a new three-manual console and introduced the electric transmission. At the same time, the organ-building workshop of the Custody of the Holy Land, added a new body of pipes reusing material from different times and schools, located at a distance from the main body. The worst things was that, in the last 30 years, coinciding with the illness and death of Fr. Delfino Fernandez Taboada, head of the workshop, the organ had reached such a state of disrepair that rendered any operation of restoration and conservation unthinkable and too expensive; the total loss of identity of the instrument was also an element that was taken into consideration.
So it was decided to build a new organ. Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, now Custos of the Holy Land and President of the Terra Sancta Organ Festival, who shared with us the info above, in the booklet published in the occasion of the inauguration, remembers with gratitude and affection how he turned to Fr. Stanislau Bertagnolli, Commissioner of the Holy Land in Austria, who in 1982 helped find the financial and organizational resources for the new organ of the Holy Sepulcher and, in the following years, continued his work with the organ in Bethlehem built in 2002, the three organs of Nazareth inaugurated in 2012 and, recently, with the new organ of Saint Magdalene for the choir of the Holy Sepulcher (all these organs have been built by the Austrian company Rieger).
The organ was completed in 2007 and inaugurated with a series of concerts that took place in 2008. Concerts were organized by the Magnificat Institute of Jerusalem, with the participation of the following organists: Enrico Zanovello (opening concert of April 6), Fr. Armando Pierucci (principal organist of the Holy Sepulcher and St. Saviour, founder and director of the Magnificat Institute), Pierluigi Comparin and Lorenzo Signorini. The concerts featured also the Custody Choir and of the Yasmeen Choir of the Magnificat Institute conducted by Hania Souda Sabbara, Anne Laurent (second organist at the Holy Sepulcher) and the Brass Ensemble of Vicenza Conservatory. From then, every year, in October, the Magnificat has organized a festival of organ music.
The Rieger organ of St. Saviour was designed by Fr. Armando Pierucci and by the head of the manufacturing company Wendelin Eberle, as it is reported in the inauguration ceremony of the booklet:
“Following my discussions with Fr. Armando, it was decided that this organ should have two consoles. An electric one, which replaces the existing console, and a mechanical one, which will be placed in the lower part of the organ, where the opening for it is already there. The two consoles also work according to two different tracker systems: an electric and a mechanic one. The mechanical tracker system is very important for the organist because the musician can develop a special empathy with the instrument together with a typical sensitivity of the hand. This allows the organist organist a much more differentiated musical articulation due to the direct connection of the fingers with the valve and, therefore, he can adjust the quantity of flowing air in relation to the aperture speed of the valves. The electric system is needed because the second console is located on ground level, behind the apse.”
Details of the organ:
More details on the organ of St. Saviour are accessible by clicking on the following links:
The Organ Page
//www.organcompendium.info/organi/euro25.html (in Italian)
Israel Organ Association
//organ.org.il/pws/page!6107 (in French)
//organ.org.il/pws/page!6106 (in English)
//organ.org.il/pws/page!6070 (in Hebrew)
//organ.org.il/pws/page!6263 (in French)
//organ.org.il/pws/page!6285 (in English)
Inauguration of the “Rieger” Organ – April 2008 – Jerusalem St. Saviour’s Church, Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem, 2008.
Sabin and Gerard Levi, Organ Culture in Israel and Palestine, Lexington, Usa, 2011.
The video of the inauguration (April 6, 2008) in Italian: