Conrad Schick, a 19th century German missionary, scholar and architect, was described by Dr Shimon Gibson as a kind of “oracle” in Jerusalem during his time. Anyone desiring to truly understand the city’s history, and possibly its future, simply had to visit and learn from Schick. With the return of some of Schick’s most prominent work to the Christ Church compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, pilgrims once again have the opportunity to do so.
Having attended the unveiling of Schick’s famous multi-layered model of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount at Christ Church’s Heritage Center, it seems hard to understate the man’s importance to and impact on the city, even if one has never before heard his name.
“Still today, we are finding that supposedly new archeological discoveries in Jerusalem had already been discovered and written about by Schick,” Dr Gibson, told Travelujah. Dr Gibson, a British-born archaeologist is a senior associate fellow at the W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research and adjunct Professor of Archaeology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
But, perhaps it would be instructive to go back to the beginning.
Schick was sent to the Holy Land in 1846 as a missionary with the Reformed St Chrischona Pilgrim Mission as part of a kind of “quiet mission,” where he and another German missionary would settle and become living examples of Jesus’ love and message. While he remained dedicated to that mission until his death in 1901, Schick found that he had something else to offer both Jerusalem and its visitors.
Despite lacking any formal education in architecture, archeology, history or geology, Schick nevertheless became recognized as “the foremost authority on everything about Jerusalem,” said Professor Haim Goren, an expert on 19th century German Christianity in the Holy Land, adding that ‘Schick’s house’ (Tabor House on Jerusalem’s Prophets Street) was a regular pilgrimage tour stop during his day.”
After he started making models in the 1850s, Schick used his architectural and artistic abilities to help solve disputes concerning the historical terrain. For instance, Goren recounted that Schick’s detailed model of the Holy Sepulchre (which is also on display at the Heritage Center) was built to bring a conclusion to arguments between the various Christian sects inhabiting the ancient church. In addition to his creative talents, that incident likewise demonstrates Schick’s considerable status among all Christians in the Holy Land at the time.
And his influence is still fully felt today. “We are still using Schick’s sketches to make new discoveries in Jerusalem,” said Professor Goren. “His genius permeates everything concerning Jerusalem. He was one of the most important people in one of the most important periods of this city’s development.”
Dr Gibson also stressed the enormous impact of Schick’s work on modern archeology, noting that Schick had access to areas that today’s researchers could only dream of entering, such as the multitude of passages, cisterns and ancient halls under Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. And his privileged knowledge is now on display for all to see in Schick’s stunning recreation of the Temple Mount, a model that spent the last 150 years traveling the world, first on display at prestigious events like the World Fair and then gathering dust in Swiss attics.
Slowly lifting the different layered pieces, Dr Gibson revealed the intricate craftsmanship that is perhaps the only detailed documentation of what today lies beneath the Temple Mount.
Christ Church went to considerable effort to raise funds to purchase the Temple Mount and others of Schick’s models when St Chrischona decided in 2010 to auction them. The transition is a homecoming for Schick’s work, literally. The building that is today the Christ Church Heritage Center was in Schick’s day known as the House of Industry, a portion of Christ Church where local carpenters produced goods made of olive wood, and the very place where Schick constructed his models.
Dr Don Stanley, head of CMJ Israel (Christ Church’s parent ministry), said he hopes the model will become the centerpiece of the new Heritage Center and a strong reminder of the historical and biblical importance of Jerusalem. That sentiment was echoed by St Chrischona Spokesman Claudius Buser, who stated, “The long round trip is finally over, and Schick’s work is back home in Jerusalem. We know that in Jerusalem, the models will serve so many more pilgrims.”
• The entire Christ Church Heritage Campus is open to the public every day of the week and includes a small guest house, the Christ Church, recognized as the first Protestant Church in the Middle East, as well as a lovely restaurant servicing breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Outside groups and individuals are welcome. The new Heritage museum at Christ Church will be open shortly to the public, (by March 2012 at the latest). We recommend that you contact the guesthouse at firstname.lastname@example.org to check on opening hours of the museum. The new Heritage Center is situated in the Alexander Wing of the complex which is accessed off the guesthouse courtyard. Private group visits should be pre-arranged by contacting Christ Church at email@example.com. If you wish to arrange a Holy Land tour and to include this museum on your itinerary, please contact Travelujah.
- RYAN JONES
Ryan Jones writes for www.travelujah.com, the only Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land.