Santuario di Betfage

A new look for the Church chancel and vestry at Bethphage Sanctuary

Giacomo Pizzi27 May 2014

A few days ago, the Technical Office of the Custody of the Holy Land finished restoration works on the Church vestry and chancel at the Bethphage Sanctuary, just a few kilometres from the Old City of Jerusalem. The cornerstone of the works is the newly fitted out chancel, which has been totally renovated and made perfectly suitable for the Versus Populum celebration. The aim of this project was to enhance the altar with its dual meaning relating to the Holy Communion and the Calvary, right here, on the Mount of Olives, where Jesus began his journey towards Jerusalem before his Passion. The period stone in the form of a cross commemorates not only this event but also Jesus’ meeting with Martha and Mary before the resurrection of Lazarus; it was protected thanks to the use of new glass panes, also useful for keeping the unity of the entire complex intact.

For about a month, the restoration team at the Technical Office worked in full flow, replacing the run-down metal trusses in the roofing, removing the deteriorating plaster and upgrading the electrical system. In a short space of time, the vestry took on a totally new and more functional look, thanks to the emphasis of the stones on the walls and the replacement of the decor.

The chancel was also made more suitable for liturgy, thanks to the introduction of some new features: the tabernacle, ambon, celebrant’s chair and the altar, created as an evolution of the existing one. The electrical system and installation of new light sources were prepared for use within the modified arrangement, so as to enhance the liturgical centre.

For the team of workers, it was a chance to engage in a task which required particular precision and expertise in placing and fixing the stones. Carried out alongside expert staff, the work took on an important meaning for the local workers in terms of acquiring experience and new knowledge.

The project forms part of the “Jerusalem, Stones of Memory” Project supported by the pro Terra Sancta Association and through which all those who wish to can support the Franciscans and Christians in the Holy Land. It is to implement projects like this that the Custody of the Holy Land, thanks to the support of its many friends, entrusts the Technical Office with the task of not only keeping alive the memory of the places featuring in Jesus’ life, but also transforming enhancement works into a concrete opportunity for the local community to work and grow.