14 boxes of archives and seven cases of books and periodicals from Sister Abraham’s scientific and personal library were transferred to the ÉBAF library in the presence of Amir Abdallah, assistant librarian, Bernard Ntamak, OP, librarian, François-Xavier Fauvelle, director of the French Research Centre in Jerusalem (CRFJ) and Stéphane Ancel (CNRS-CRFJ), historian and archivist specialized in Ethiopia.

In just one year, no fewer than 290 volumes – the researcher’s entire library and archives – were examined, classified and enhanced by Stéphane Ancel, who scrutinized every single page used by Sister Abraham. A month after receiving the donation, Brother Bernard Ntamak, OP, was still amazed when he opened the last boxes containing articles annotated in Sister Abraham’s hand, “a true scholar”.

Of Swedish origin, a Lutheran converted to Catholicism, a Brigittine and then a Benedictine Oblate, Sister Abraham, whose real name was Kirsten Pedersen, spent the last fifty years of her life in Jerusalem. A multilingual researcher and historian, she was recognized as great expert in the Ethiopian presence in Jerusalem, on which she published her dissertation in 1983. All her research was informed by her study of Semitic philology, African literature, the history of Ethiopia and the early Christians of the Holy Land. In 1990, she defended her doctoral thesis on the Ethiopian exegesis of the psalms of David at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

She bequeathed her entire personal and scientific library to the Benedictine nuns of the Mount of Olives, where she lived as a hermit until her death in 2017. In 2022, at the initiative of Clément Dussart, a doctoral student of the CNRS and the University of Poitiers, Sister Abraham’s archives were made available to researchers, as requested by her heirs.

The exceptional archiving work carried out in record time by Stéphane Ancel, with the help of Lyse Baer Zerbit (CRFJ), was initiated on 12 October 2022 when Vincent Lemire was director of the CRFJ, and Jean-Jacques Pérennes, OP, director of the ÉBAF, as part of the synergy that has united the ÉBAF, the CRFJ and the IFPO since 2021 around common research assets.

Stéphane Ancel and Bernard Ntamak, OP

“This collection, which includes some very rare manuscripts in Ethiopian, will enable us to extend our field of research as far as Addis Ababa, via Egypt. It also provides material on the life of the first Christians in the Holy Land. Bernard Ntamak, OP, head of the ÉBAF library.

Tapuscrit about Deir Es-Sultan monastery, with Sister Abraham’s handmade notes in Arabic

Photos: Ordo praedicatorum
Interview by ChD