Beit Gazo is a centre for the protection of written heritage. Eastern Christian community manuscripts, an irreplaceable universal heritage that must be protected. 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.
In Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, the Holy Land, 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, and grammar among others).
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 jeopardized 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.
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.
The Beit Gazo Centre’s activities
The Beit Gazo 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 Beit Gazo Center’s plan for the next five years include stimulating Eastern Churches’ interest in preserving their heritage, restoring one manuscript per month, conducting training courses with the assistance of BNF and the National Heritage Institute, developing its network of partners and patrons in Europe, extending the areas of expertise of the centre and its partner networks in Iraq and Syria, participating in the upcoming missions relating to endangered heritage in the Middle East, installing a library specialized in Eastern preservation, conserving the Centre’s premises, and providing conservation and restoration advice in the event that emergency work on the Middle Eastern collections is necessary.