Lebanon: The Beit Gazo Centre for the Preservation of Eastern Christian Heritage
Eastern Christian community manuscripts - an irreplaceable universal heritage that must be protected
In Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Palestine and Egypt, Eastern Christian community libraries house very diverse collections of great value in the Syriac, Arabic, Coptic and Armenian languages (Bible, exegesis, theology, liturgy, asceticism, homiletics, hagiography, grammar, etc.).
This heritage is an exceptional testimony of the presence of Christians in the Middle East during the first centuries of Christianity. As this heritage may be jeopardised by the passage of time and the violent conflicts shaking the Middle East, l'Œuvre d’Orient intends to protect and raise public awareness of it.
It is our duty to gather, protect, conserve, and promote this heritage of the communities whose culture has marked the history of the Middle East and Europe.
Beit Gazo: A centre for the protection of written heritage
In Charfet, south of Beirut, the Catholic-Syriac patriarchate has made available premises free of charge for the new written heritage restoration centre – named Beit Gazo, or "House of Treasures" – inspired by the name of one of the most iconic of works in the Syriac language.
Thanks to l’Œuvre d’Orient, the building's two floors have been renovated. A reception area, a conference room, a storage facility, and a restoration and digitisation area fully fitted with specialised equipment have been set up thanks to funding provided by the French Senate.
The centre's activities
The centre draws on expertise of specialists from the Syriac Study Society and the French National Library. In 2017, four manuscripts of great value from Lebanon (two of which were Syriac Catholic and two Melkite) were restored and exhibited at the Institut du Monde Arabe (Arabic World Institute) under the title of "Eastern Christians, 2,000 years of History".
Likewise, conservation boxes were made for two extremely important manuscripts from the orthodox Syriac collection.
In May 2018, the Beit Gazo centre took part in a mission to identify endangered heritage and restoration requirements in the north of Iraq.
Twenty manuscripts belonging to the Basilian Chouerite Order from the Monastery of Saint John the Baptist are currently being restored. To encourage apprenticeships, the centre is also offering training in partnership with the French National Library (BNF) starting in autumn of 2018
The centre's programme for the next five years
> Stimulate Eastern churches' interest in preserving their heritage
> Restore one manuscript per month
> Conduct training courses with the assistance of BNF and the National Heritage Institute
> Develop its network of partners and patrons in Europe
> Extend the areas of expertise of the centre and its partner networks in Iraq and Syria
> Participate in the upcoming missions relating to endangered heritage in the Middle East
> Install a library specialized in Eastern preservation, conservation and codicology in the Centre’s premises
> Provide conservation and restoration advice in the event that emergency work on the Middle Eastern collections is necessary
The expertise guaranteed by the centre adheres to an international ethical vision with respect to restoration – it must be as non-interventionist as possible and respect the historical aspect of the works. Estimated annual operating cost of the centre: €65,000
For payments by cheque or money transfer, please indicate project code: T80581
Presentation of the centre by Caroline Gelot, restoration project manager
The project in brief
Project initiator :
Caroline Gelot, restoration project manager at the Beit Gazo Centre
To restore and preserve ancient manuscripts of Eastern Christian heritage