09 November 2017

St. Francis in the books of the Custody

An exhibition for the 800th anniversary of the Franciscan presence in the Holy Land; getting to know the saint of Assisi through manuscripts and antique prints.

Archaeology, Culture, and other Religions

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Three days were dedicated to ancient books and digital libraries: this program of the Custody of the Holy Land was held in Jerusalem from November 7 to November 9.

The future of cataloging and virtual enjoyment of cultural heritage were some of themes of the conference held by several speakers, among which Konstantinos Staikos, a Greek professor, in addition to an exhibition of the most precious works of the Franciscan General Library at the premises of the (Custodial) Curia.

Fr. LIONEL GOH, ofm
Director- General Library - Custody of the Holy Land
"This is what the library represents: a collection of the journeys of 800 years of Franciscan presence. To celebrate this anniversary, therefore, we chose to show the original experiences to the public, as they were written.”

The exhibition, entitled 'Francis of Assisi, among the ancient books of the Custody of the Holy Land', is part of a larger project called 'Libri - Ponti di Pace' (Books – Bridges of Peace), promoted by the Catholic University of Milan in conjunction with ATS- Pro Terra Sancta. Through different stages, the objective of the exhibition was to show how the friars' books kept alive the memory of the saint of Assisi over the years.

EDOARDO BARBIERI
Catholic University - Milan
"The first section of the exhibition focuses on the books that show illustrations of St. Francis. The first example we chose is that of a liturgical book, a spectacular antiphonary of the late 300s, believed to be put together in Siena, where a splendid miniature of St. Francis visiting the Poor Clare Sisters can be appreciated.”

Most of the depictions of the saint are wood or metal engravings, such as the oldest existing xylograph that dates back to the end of the 400s and a story of the order written at the end of the 7th Century, where Francis is depicted receiving the stigmata.
The Medulla Evangelii, which shows the deep link between the Franciscan rule and the gospel, was also part of the exhibited relevant works.

EDOARDO BARBIERI
Catholic University - Milan
"The second section is centered on the life of the saint. We do not possess the most ancient writings about his life completed at the beginning of the Franciscan experience, but we have an important testimony: the 1509 edition of St. Bonaventura Legenda Maior.”

EDOARDO BARBIERI
Catholic University - Milan
"The third section focuses on the texts written by Francis. For centuries, it is as if we forgot that we could read these texts, we were just content to read about his life again and again."

In the 17th century, a trend reversal took place: the exposition of the first complete collection and of the revision of the texts of the poor man of Assisi, curated by Luca Vaddis, in addition to the Franciscan rule.

EDOARDO BARBIERI
Catholic University - Milan
“The conclusion of our show is somewhat provocative. We chose to expose this large psaltery, always destined for the choir, where you can see a sixteenth-century miniature depicting St. Francis receiving the stigmata. Here, though, there is a book abandoned on the ground.”

EDOARDO BARBIERI
Catholic University - Milan
"It is necessary to reiterate that, in order to (truly)know Francis and to understand his way of life, we need to study his writings and we must continue to reflect on all his teachings over the centuries. At the same time, however, we will somehow overcome all these things, because only the direct experience of Christ will in time reflect the very charism of Francis.”