New Jerusalem museum looks at the origins of Christianity

After extensive renovations, Terra Sancta Museum showcases archaeological artifacts linked to the life of Jesus.

October 19, 2018 04:21
1 minute read.
The Church of Saint John the Baptist in Jerusalem

The Church of Saint John the Baptist in Jerusalem. (photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN/ REURERS)


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Hidden behind a stone wall in Jerusalem’s Old City is a museum housing precious artifacts dating back thousands of years. The Terra Sancta Museum’s newly-reopened archaeological wing displays objects depicting how Jesus might have lived 2,000 years ago.

Located on the Via Dolorosa near the Monastery of the Flagellation, where Jesus is believed to have been flogged by Roman soldiers, the museum features coins, mosaics, and unique inscriptions from biblical times. One of the highlights of the collection is a rare half-shekel coin minted by the Jews who revolted against the Romans in 66 CE.

Most of the items on display were collected by the Franciscan friars over the centuries and the museum itself was founded by the Custody of the Holy Land, the Franciscan authority that oversees the Catholic Church’s properties in Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Cyprus.

Although the archaeological wing is already open to the public, construction is ongoing.

“We succeeded in opening just part of the new museum,” Father Eugenio Alliata, director of the museum, related to The Media Line. “We hope to be completed in maybe two years. We want people to understand that the life of Jesus is connected to this land.”

Restoring the museum, which is built atop the ruined remains of Crusader and Mamluk structures, was no easy feat.

“Part of the museum dates back to 1902 and then we have a part that is much older and that probably dates back to the time of Jesus,” Sara Cibin, the project director of the museum, told The Media Line. “We also have some Byzantine and some Crusader remains.”

Though it mainly focuses on the origins of Christianity, the museum is also geared toward non-Christian visitors who wish to learn more about daily life in the Holy Land thousands of years ago.

“The time of the life of Jesus is interesting not only for Christians, but also for Jews as part of what they call the Second Temple period,” Father Alliata explained. “It is interesting also for Muslims because Jesus is one of their prophets. We think that the figure of Jesus will be an attraction for everybody.”

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