The 100-year-old Terra Sancta Museum in Jerusalem's Old City has reopened with exhibits depicting the life and times of Jesus Christ.
According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, it is the first museum to display what daily life was like in Jerusalem during the Second Temple period (530 BC to 70 AD).
First opened in 1902, the museum is located in the Franciscan Church of the Flagellation at the eastern edge of the Old City near the Lion's Gate. It is here, according to tradition, Roman soldiers flogged Jesus. It is the second stop on the Via Dolorosa, which may have been the route the Romans forced Jesus to carry his cross to the place where he was crucified.
The museum's building is ancient. One section, named "Herod's House," is 2,000 years old. Other parts date to the Byzantine era, about 1,500 years ago, and to period of the Crusades, about 1,000 years ago. Plans for the museum include two more wings to be added in the near future.
Though many of the ancient relics are from Jerusalem, others come from the area around the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret), Bethlehem, Herodian, as well as Jordan. Some have been stored for a century, while others have never been exhibited, according to the report.
Several of the Jordanian artifacts come from Machaerus, a fortress built by King Herod on the eastern side of the Dead Sea, where tradition says John the Baptist was imprisoned and later beheaded.
According to the report, the displays are presented in a thematic timeline, making them easy to follow. They include palaces, homes of ordinary people, and items that made up everyday life.
One interesting artifact is a half-shekel coin made by the Jews during the first year of the revolt against the Romans. Other displays include fragile glass vessels that somehow survived for 2,000 years and a piece of ancient jewelry crafted in Jerusalem.
"Our collection is of great importance and it has enormous relevance to archaeology and art history," Sara Cibin, museum project manager for the Association Pro Terra Sancta, told Ha'aretz.
"This is the only place that displays the Christian character of Jerusalem. Given these two advantages, it's clear that we expect to stand out on the local museum scene," Cibin said.
"We've added new items that have never been displayed before, like an ancient Georgian inscription, beautiful glassware from a private collection and many interesting coins," she said.
What makes this museum unique is that it appeals not only to Christian pilgrims, but to Israeli Jews and Arabs as well.
"The uniqueness of the Holy Land is that it's a supporting pillar for a vast space of knowledge, encounter, and dialogue between cultures. The opening of the new museum is an incredible opportunity to realize the vision of peace in a country that's still finding its way toward peace," Father Francesco Patton, the Custos of the Holy Land (the chief Franciscan cleric), said at the museum's opening.