Long forgotten wall-paintings of the Crusader period from the 19th century, recently discovered in the basement storage room of a Christian Jerusalem hospice, are on display for the first time, with the aid of the Antiquities Authority.
The murals, characteristic of church decorations from that time, were found by nuns cleaning Saint-Louis Hospital, near the Old City. In the wake of the finding, Antiquities Authority conservators came to the hospital and assisted the sisters to clean and restore the art.
Amit Re’em, Jerusalem district archeologist on behalf of the authority, said on Wednesday that the murals, while not antiquities, have significant historical value.
“It’s like a mural from the times of the Crusades, and because of this, was of interest to the IAA [Israel Antiquities Authority],” he said. “The importance of it is that we can learn about the Crusader period by looking at it.”
According to Re’em, the display was a “rare opportunity” to photograph the wall paintings and show them to the public. An ancillary benefit, he added, was to showcase the work of the nuns, who selflessly care for terminally ill patients of all races and religions.
“They do incredibly important work at the hospice, by caring for anyone who needs hospice care,” he said. “So, while it is nice to display the art, it is also very good that we can showcase their invaluable work.”
However, because the paintings are not antiquities, Re’em said the Antiquities Authority does not have the budget to conserve and restore the murals beyond its initial efforts.
“We hope that someone will donate money to help conserve the art,” he said. “It’s our obligation to take care of these historical paintings, to preserve them, document them and show them to the public.”
The hospice was opened to the public in 1896 and named after Louis IX, the king of France and leader of the Seventh Crusade 1248–1254 CE. It was founded by a French count named Marie Paul Amédée de Piellat, who regularly visited Jerusalem in the second half of the 19th century.
It is staffed by the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition.