This autumn, the École Biblique and the convent of Saint-Etienne are embarking on major modernisation work on one of the two student residences on campus. The scale, complexity and cost of the operation deserve some explanation.

Why this project? The School accommodates around 25 students per year, and also welcomes visiting researchers. It has two residences for this purpose. The old convent, which was the subject of a refurbishment project during the Covid year: painting, electricity, furniture. The structure of the building will not be touched; dating from the Ottoman period, it is good that it has remained “in its juice”. The whole building has character and offers sufficient comfort, with WiFi providing students with the means to work well.

The second residence, which also has a dozen rooms, is located above the school’s large conference room and dates from the end of 1891, when Fr Lagrange founded the school. It deserved real work. Customs have changed since the 19th century, and students today expect more comfort, in particular the presence of showers and toilets in each room.

When will the work take place? From autumn 2022, as the plans are ready and the financing is almost complete. We are taking advantage of a slightly smaller academic year. A number of students from the Institut Catholique de Paris or the Biblicum in Rome were unable to start their cycle two years ago because of Covid and are therefore not ready to join us. This gives us a favourable window to undertake works which will immobilise the residence for about ten months, the objective being to be able to welcome students again at the beginning of the academic year in October 2023. For the coming academic year, the old convent residence and a few rented rooms in the neighbourhood will still allow us to welcome a new class.

How will it work? After careful consideration, we are opting for a system that does both heating and cooling, which is no luxury in the hot Jerusalem summers.

Who pays for it? Given its complexity, this is an expensive project, costing around €800,000. Of course, St. Stephen’s convent and the School can only cover a small part of this budget from their reserves. It was therefore necessary to appeal to various donors, mainly Catholic institutions that help religious in the East. Plans and estimates have been submitted, are being reviewed by the project selection committees, but we are already confident that we will receive sufficient support to embark on this venture.

Gratitude. This project is an opportunity to draw attention to the generosity of institutions such as ours, which manage to cover their operating costs but do not have the means to make major investments from their own funds. However, for years, we have been able to undertake important and necessary work thanks to various generosities: repairing the water supply to the property, creating a student hostel and a modern linen room, installing new insulating windows on the ground floor of the convent, renovating hotel rooms, fitting out the museum mezzanine, waterproofing the vaults of the basilica atrium, repairing the organ, installing offices for the Bible in its traditions, installing fibre optics throughout the campus and, in the last two years, restoring the stained glass windows of the basilica.

The main projects to come are the lighting of the basilica and, in a few years, an extension of the library.

Many thanks to the donors, aid agencies, benefactors and to the bursar, Brother Stanislaw, who follows all this with exemplary dedication.