The École Biblique in Jerusalem, French archaeological school for one hundred years.

Posted on Nov 22, 2019

November 20, 2019
Very few buildings around, and a lot of nature where today there are crowded neighbourhoods. These are the first images of the École biblique of Jerusalem, surrounded by a landscape that has now disappeared, north of the old city. Here, at the end of the 19th century, the French Dominican Fathers created one of the most important centres dedicated to the study of the Bible and archaeology of the Holy Land, officially recognised as a French archaeological school a hundred years ago. The memory of over a century of activity is enclosed in a special photo library.

Fr JEAN-MICHEL DE TARRAGON, op Photo library manager École biblique et archéologique française de Jérusalem.
“The École biblique, as a school and research institute, was founded in 1890 by Father Lagrange. This property was bought 8 years before then by other Dominicans: therefore, it was only after 8 years of presence in Jerusalem that they decided that the new property would be dedicated to the studies of the Bible and the Holy Land, connecting the land and the documents. This is the entire collection of glass photographic negatives from the École biblique.”
There are 40,000 photographs, taken (or collected) for study purposes, preserved from the beginning with absolute precision, and in recent years completely digitized. Looking through the rich archive, it is not difficult to find some really precious documents.
Fr JEAN-MICHEL DE TARRAGON, op Photo library manager École biblique et archéologique française de Jérusalem.
“Here you can see the construction of New Gate. This is really a unique photograph, we are the only ones to have it. The Turkish municipality decided to create a new gate for the old city of Jerusalem, which then took the name of “New Gate”, for which they had to tear down a stretch of the walls. The next step was the completion of the gate, as you can see here. Then we were the first, in 1908, to make a study cruise, with students and professors, on the Dead Sea. Or again, we are famous for the archaeological dig conducted in Qumran, on the Dead Sea scrolls.”
The speakers at a conference organised to celebrate the important anniversary explain what the École biblique, still very much linked to the French state, represents today.
DOMINIQUE TRIMBUR Associate researcher at the French Research Centre in Jerusalem
“An interesting combination of religious, national… even patriotic interests. Today the École biblique is still a very modern, progressive, necessary reality, not only for France.”
MICHEL ZINK Academy of France
“This academic and tolerant presence is now more important than in the past, both for the scientific community and for the countries in the area. Because archaeology in this troubled region is under threat at a time when very significant discoveries are being made, and because biblical studies are very important for conflicting communities that should claim the same text.”
JEAN-JACQUES PÉRENNÈS Director École biblique et archéologique française di Gerusalemme
“It was very important for the former biblical school to be recognized in 1920 as the French archaeological school in Jerusalem. It was a time when the political situation in the area was changing, the Ottoman Empire had collapsed… so other countries could conduct archaeological research. In a century we have achieved a lot of results in the fields of archaeology and biblical studies. Now we want to continue our mission, training the best professors and scholars.”

See also Teaching and Transmitting the Love of the Bible