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AZG Armenian Daily #216 23/11/2007

Social, Culture

The reopening of the Calouste Gulbenkian Library of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem took place on Saturday, November 3, after an extensive renovation and refurbishment funded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation of Lisbon and the Saint Sarkis Charity Trust of London.

The Library was the vision of Patriarch Yeghishe Tourian (1921-1929), and was completed thanks to the generosity of the founding benefactor Calouste Gulbenkian, who undertook the project in honor of his parents, and of Patriarch Tourian's fiftieth anniversary of ordination to the priesthood. The cornerstone was laid in 1929, but the late Patriarch did not live to see his dream realized, and it was his successor, Patriarch Torkom I Koushagian who presided at the Library's opening in 1932.

The 2007 reopening ceremony was attended by the contemporary members of the Gulbenkian dynasty, key figures in the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the Saint Sarkis Charity Trust, who had traveled from Lisbon and London for the ceremonies. During their weeklong visit, they were given the opportunity to view firsthand the many benevolent projects that their illustrious forebear had funded in and around the Armenian Patriarchate and Jerusalem.

The presence of Paul Gulbenkian, the benefactor's grandson and President of the Saint Sarkis Charity Trust, and Martin Essayan, his great grandson and a Trustee of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, together with their spouses, lent a special poignancy to the culmination of the renovation efforts of this unique repository of over 100,000 volumes in the Holy Land.

The original collection of the Library's books was supplemented through the years by the generous donations of successive Patriarchs, Calouste Gulbenkian himself, members of the St. James Brotherhood, many devoted people from the Armenian Diaspora and Armenia, and a host of non-Armenian friends of the Library.

In its present form, the collection of Armenian books has grown into one of the largest and most important in the world, and also includes several thousand volumes of literature in European and Middle Eastern languages as well as journals and newspapers from the 18th until the early 20th centuries, and includes crucial studies in Armenology. Its collection of Armenian newspapers is the third largest in the world after Vienna and the National Library in Armenia.

The honored guests were joined by the area's diplomatic, governmental, ecumenical and library representatives, as well as a cross section of others in the community who viewed the restored collection resettled in new compact shelving in a temperature controlled, air conditioned facility.

Welcomed by His Eminence Archbishop Nourhan Manougian, the Grand Sacristan of the Patriarchate, the gathered guests enjoyed a short program full of reminiscences about the life and work of Calouste Gulbenkian and his passionate ties with Jerusalem throughout the years as presented by Mr. Martin Essayan, Mr. Kevork Hintlian, Jerusalemite and author, and Miss Astrig Tchamkerten, Assistant Director of the Armenian Communities Department of the Foundation. Father Norayr Kazazian, the present director of the Library, spoke of future plans to bring the Library up to the highest standards of digitization with the continued support of the Foundation.

A musical interlude by the seminarians of the Patriarchate preceded the remarks of His Beatitude Patriarch Archbishop Torkom Manoogian who closed the formal program by bestowing the Patriarchate's Medal of Honor, for exemplary support and patronage of the needs of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, upon Mr. Essayan, Miss Tchamkerten and Mr. Gulbenkian. Mr. Gulbenkian, speaking on behalf of the three honorees, expressed his appreciation for the honor and for the efforts the Patriarchate had made to ensure that the Gulbenkian Library continue to serve its international constituency.

Following the opening program, a reception was held in the Patriarchate's Main Hall.

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