Archaeology in the Holy Land: a book dedicated to Father Michele Piccirillo

Giacomo Pizzi9 September 2011

Michele PiccirilloThose who passionately follow archaeological discoveries in the Middle East will certainly be pleased to learn of the recent publication of a book that in some respects is unique. It is a publication in memoriam of Fr. Michele Piccirillo, an archaeologist who was exceptional for his commitment to undertake projects of excavation, preservation and valorization of the immense historical and archaeological heritage of the Middle East. Hence the title of the work: In Memoriam: Fr Michele Piccirillo, ofm (1944-2008). Celebrating his Life and Work.

 The vision of Fr. Michele Piccirillo, fully shared by all of the contributors to the present volume, was that every excavation project should have as an objective the participation of the local population in the management of its own historical, archaeological and artistic heritage. Such an awareness, he would say, was the only way to peace.

The volume, published on 15 August, consists of a collection of essays by scholars in different fields: Byzantine and early Islamic period archaeology, mosaic studies, epigraphy, architectural and mosaic restoration, museology, the history and modern renewal of mother-of-pearl craftsmanship in Bethlehem, and the “Massolini Calendar” project.

Two of the contributions in the volume are by collaborators with ATS pro Terra Sancta: the art historian Carla Benelli and the architect Osama Hamdan. For a number of years they have been following with great passion the Sebastia project, of which Father Michel Piccirillo himself had been a strong supporter, and where particular emphasis continues to be given to what that Franciscan of the Custody of the Holy Land had always insisted on: the importance of involving local populations in the management of their own cultural and historical heritage.