Studies and souvenirs from Palestine and Transjordan. The revival of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the re-discovery of the Holy Land during the nineteenth century

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During the nineteenth century the Ottoman province of Bilad al-Sham was involved in a broader political and diplomatic dynamic known as the Question d’Orient, becoming one of the sites of colonial encounter which lay at the intersection of European and Ottoman modernization.1 Jerusalem and the holy places arose as one of the main theatres of con ict, not for their geopolitical and economic importance2 but for their symbolic and spiritual signi cance, vividly associated in the mind of Europe with the theme of Christian chivalry and the memory of the Crusades.The land of Palestine, the Holy Land proprement dit and not the Ottoman province, was explored, surveyed, steadily reinvented and imagined by “zealous intruders” who sought to rediscover this land to perma- nently reunite the East and the West.4 This “gentle crusade”5 favoured the emer- gence of the concept of the Holy Land as a region set apart, simultaneously a terra incognita and the well-known biblical land, that dominated the intellectual Western imagination of the nineteenth century, as evidenced by the growing usage of this term, which is remarkable, as Ben-Arieh points out, in view of the fact that it was not a separate political entity at that time.6 Nonetheless the land of Palestine was not only a territory of exploration and pilgrimage, but also a mission land for both Catholics and Protestants. Bene tting from the favourable political climate of the Tanzimat, Christian missionaries increasingly ocked to the Near East, directly intervening in the local socio-political system through the foundation of many missionary establishments and religious institutions, as testi ed by the formation of the Anglican Bishopric of Jerusalem in 1841 and the revival of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem in 1847. These new centres of religious authority played a dual role. On the one hand, they participated in the colonial encounter as important actors in a dynamic of changing and developing local balances of socio-political and religious power. On the other, encompassing their religious signi cance and role on the ground, their presence indirectly sustained the development of a process of intellectual acquisition of Palestine. The Holy Land proprement dit was not only the site and the treasure-chest of the holy places. It was a sacred and holy territory, owing to its biblical history,7 that was inspected and checked for “evidence” of the accuracy of the Bible and, at the same time, a land that needed to be revived and rescued from neglect.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteOrientalism Revisited: Art, Land and Voyage
EditorIan Netton
Numero di pagine11
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2013


  • Holy Land
  • missionaries
  • orientalism
  • power and culture


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