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The Jerusalem Patriarchal Library

The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem is the most ancient Christian see that survives in Jerusalem to the present day. It has a long history of struggling to preserve the integrity of the holy places and shrines sacred to the Christians in the Holy City. The present Patriarch is Diodoros I.

The library is located within the confines of the Patriarchal building complex and is under the direction of the librarian, Father Kallistos. I obtained a special letter from Archbishop Iakovos of North and South America addressed to Patriarch Diodoros that give me permission to visit and use the library. Unfortunately the library does not keep regular hours, so I went early one morning to make certain that someone was there to open the library for me.

I met Father Kallistos, a graduate of the University of Athens with a concentration in Greek philology. As we talked he mentioned that Patriarch Do- sitheos, who served as head of the Church in Athens from 1669-1707, began collecting manuscripts and books for the purpose of organizing a library. In 1820 Patriarch Chrysanthos moved the collection to its present location. In the 19th century there was increasing interest in Byzantine studies and for that reason many scholars came from Europe and America to the different centers of the Patriarchate to study the manuscripts. However, certain scholars from the West who used the manuscripts apparently took advantage of the graciousness of the monks and important treasures began to disappear. For that reason many of the collections, in order to save them from thieves, were brought to the central Patriarchal library. Here are housed several major collections such as that from the monastery of Saint Savas, the Holy Cross Seminary that was closed in the early part of this century.

The entire library collection was cataloged by Anastasios Papadopoulos-Kerameus in his Hieroso- lymilike Bibliotheke, Heloi KataĬologos ton en tais bibliothekais Hellenikon Kodikon (The Jerusalem Library or Catalogue of the Greek Codices found in the Library), 5 volumes, 1891 (reprinted, Brussels: Culture et Civilization, 1963). This work is monumental in recording the library’s valuable manuscripts. These five volumes describe each manuscript in detail and are valuable aids to the scholar in identifying library holdings.

The collection includes 2,300 manuscripts, the most important of which is the Didache, or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles. This manuscript, the only one in the world, is an 11th-century copy of a 2d-century original discovered in Constantinople in 1883. It is a non-canonical compilation of the regulations in use in early Christian communities.

Other treasures include a manuscript of an 8th- century gospel, 6th-century copies of the tragedies of Euripides, twelve epistles of St. John Chrysostom, the Orations of St. Gregory the Theologian dating from the 11th century, a scroll of the three Divine Liturgies from the 9th century that includes the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, St. Basil the Great and the Presanctified, and an edict of Omar ibn al’Khattab, conqueror of Jerusalem in 638, that acknowledges the privileges of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem and declares the continuation of these privileges.

The library books can be evaluated as follows: 30% between 1497-1550, and 40% before 1650. The typikon of St. Savas that was printed in Venice in 1603 and the Vera Historia published at the Hague in 1660 are other valuable volumes in this library.

The Patriarchal Library was well organized during the time when such intellectuals as Chrysos- tomos Papadopoulos (early 1900s) took special interest in the library. However, according to Father Kallistos, for over seventy years the library has been neglected. When he was placed in charge of the library eleven years ago it was in a state of disrepair. The walls were falling down, the books were full of mildew and worms—even a snake was found behind a bookshelf. It took him seven vears to make some changes. He took out all the old wooden shelves and replaced them with steel. He painted the walls and began to repair and preserve the old books and manuscripts. There is no budget for the library, so he does what he can from the small salary he receives monthly.

The author consults the Didache manuscript and the edict of Omar ibn al’Khattab.

I asked Father Kallistos why he was so suspicious of Western scholars. He said that great treasures had been stolen during the last century and now these manuscripts have turned up in Western libraries.

The library has great treasures and those who are there guard it with all the strength they have. My experience in visiting and examining some of the manuscripts in this library was both enriching and saddening. This library needs full-time archival and preservation expertise. The archives are utterly neglected because of the lack of staff and space and they are on the floor in a pile like trash.

The library has vast potential for scholars who could both use it and at the same time protect the collection from thieves.

The Jerusalem Patriarchal Library houses a priceless and irreplaceable heritage. The Library of Congress has microfilmed a significant proportion of the Patriarchal Library's holdings; interlibrary loan requests should be directed to LC's Microfilm Reading Room.— George C. Papademetriou. Director of the Library. Hellenic College/Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. Brookline. Massachusetts. ■■

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