Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Returning in an urn

The story of the urn begins at the prestigious École biblique et archéologique française de Jérusalem. On March 31 I was privileged to attend part of their Qumran Day, a day of lectures in memory of John Strugnell.
Since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls the scholars at the School of Biblical and Archeological Studies have been deeply involved in the translation and interpretation of the texts. The original Scrolls team was appointed in the early 1950s by Jordan. (The Ecole is on Nablus Road in East Jerusalem, formerly Jordanian territory.) Young Strugnell came to the Scrolls Project in 1955 from Oxford. By 1987 he was editor-in-chief.

Photo courtesy of Fr. Jean-Michel de Tarragon

Strugnell taught at Harvard School of Divinity, but he spent his summers working on the scroll fragments at the Ecole Biblique. So it seemed right that after his death, late in 2007, his ashes would be brought from the United States to Jerusalem.
The Ecole is with the Priory of St. Stephen. Its monks are the teachers. The Dominicans are the Order of Preachers.
Here in the photo (courtesy of Fr. Jean-Michel) the brothers sing from the rite (in Latin and French) as a schola (choir) in the burial place.

Photo by Fr. Jean-Michel
Holy water was sprinkled toward the place of the entombment.

Photo by Fr. Jean-Michel
In the urn--John Strugnell's ashes.

Inside the wall in the crypt are the mortal remains of the deceased Brothers. The body is placed in a simple wooden casket. The marble marker bears the Brother's name, date of birth, date of monastic profession of vows, and date of death.

The present Dominican monastery (from the late 19th century) is built over remains of a 5th century Byzantine monastic complex. Back then the dead were buried in these ancient tombs cut in the rock. The body was buried. Cremation is not and was not allowed in Judaism and it took centuries for Christianity to begin to allow it.

You photo bloggers will enjoy meeting Brother Jean-Michel de Tarragon, here shooting with the big camera.
After getting his PhD (on Ugaritic Religious Cuneiforms Texts) at the Sorbonne, he came here and made Jerusalem his home. Until recently he served as the Prior of St. Stephen's Priory.
When he is not in a class teaching, he does photography for the institute.
He is also very enthusiastic about his project of converting between 15,000 and 18,000 glass plate negatives (from the really old-fashioned cameras) into digital pictures on compact disc.
St. Stephen's has accumulated the world's biggest private collection of old photos of Israel.
Amazing to see the 19th and early 20th century photos of life here in this land! The country is lucky to have Frere Jean-Michel in Jerusalem.
Interesting stuff:
A Jerusalem Post article about Professor Father Tarragon and the monastery
Ecole Biblique website in French and English
A new critique by Geza Vermes on the controversy surrounding both Strugnell and the handling of the translation and publication of the DSS
Photo of Qumran caves where the scrolls were discovered


cieldequimper said...

Simply fascinating. Thank you.

Meead said...

So interesting. Jean-Michel de Tarragon is quite a professional photographer. Why not asking him to join us in CDPB?

Dina, that plaque does not belong to any specific statue or something. It was just installed on a concrete bench in front of the Engineering Building. Have a look at this


pasadenaadjacent said...

I'm thinking I might need to spend some time at this post. I follow links but i loose them too. The link on whether camels milk is Kocher or not. Drats.
Did the dead sea scrolls spend time at the Huntington Art gallery here in So Cal?
Come visit..I've morphed into a performance artist

James said...

Another very interesting post with really nice pictures.

Grace and Bradley said...

This part of history always fascinate me. Thanks for the interesting and well written blog. I also read through the article by Geza Vermes. Finally, now the scrolls is for everyone to read.

foto CHIP said...

Very interesting and a lovely URN with it's white stones. Is it marble?

Hilda said...

How very fitting that Mr Strugnell is entombed in a place where he dedicated much of his life to — and such a historic place too. I like the fact that the urn is a simple earthenware jar. Marble or porcelain would have looked very out of place here.

Your photo of Fr Jean-Michel made me smile. I remember seeing photos of the Jesuits sightseeing when they had their general congregation last year (two years ago?) in Rome. A whole bunch of men in black cassocks holding up all varieties of cameras. Fun.

Dr M said...

A "cooking pot"! How apropos as a final resting place for one's ashes....And given Strugnell's fiery history with the Scrolls, doubly significant.
Thank you for this peek. I shall be sure to pay my respects next time down in the Tombs....

Ann said...

Thats a really fascinating place, and story.

magiceye said...

the images so beautiful and the story so interesting

Pietro said...

So interesting images and text, Dina. Thanks for sharing. It's really thrilling the project of converting those thousands negatives into digital pictures: I understand Brother Jean-Michel's enthusiasm.

kadermo said...

A very interesting story. Thank you for sharing.

Carolina said...

A very interesting post indeed ;-)

Gordon said...

Very interesting; well wriiten and illustrated. The world must thank the dedication of people like John Strugnell and Brother Jean-Michel de Tarragon.

Yaelian said...

A very interesting posting, thanks Dina!

Louis la Vache said...

Very, very interesting! Thank you for posting this!

JM said...

Beautiful architecture and very interesting information regarding the ceremony.

Rose said...

Fascinating post, Dina! We owe so much to the monks and other scholars for translating and preserving these important documents for posterity. Thank you for sharing.

RuneE said...

Definitely not the run-of-the-mill daily post. History is always interesting.

Q said...

Thank you for this U post. I learn so much on ABC Wednesday...it is fun too.

Lily Hydrangea said...

an ambitious post to say the least. Interesting too!

Sherrie said...

Your "U" post is awesome! Thank you for all the info, it was very interesting! Have a great day!


Cloudia said...

Love to see those old photos, Dina!

Wonderful post.

Rajesh said...

Very interesting and nice architecture.

Karyn said...

Very interesting. Thank you so much for sharing

Kay said...

Wow! This is very interesting. Your photos are fabulous, Dina.

Barbara Martin said...

This is such a wonderful discovery for me, Dina. From June 27 09 to January 3 2010, the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto is having a 'Dead Sea Scroll' exhibit which I am anxious to see.