Focus 2008

Ratisbonne - MOR15-06-2008

Project: Salesian Theological Institute "Sts Peter and Paul", Ratisbonne
Date: From September 1994
Place: Jerusalem
Province: MOR


The Salesian Centre for Theological Studies in the Holy Land started out in Bethlehem in 1929 and was transferred to Tantur in 1949. In 1957 it moved to Cremisan and in September 2004 to the former Ratisbonne Monastery in Jerusalem Since 1966 it has been affiliated with the Theological Faculty of the Salesian Pontifical University in Rome.


The primary objective of the Institute is the intellectual and spiritual formation of young Salesian students preparing  for the priesthood.  Other religious or secular students, presented by their respective Ordinaries, are also welcomed at the Institute. 
Currently students from the Franciscan community, part of the Custody of the Holy Land, and students belonging to the Missionaries of Africa located at St. Anne's in the Holy City, attend lectures at the Institute.


The study curriculum, lasting four years, includes many pastoral opportunities, including Salesian activities with the young. There are significant Catholic migrant minorities (Filipino, Sri Lankan, other) present in Jerusalem, and students minister to these. Given the privileged location of the Institute, it dedicates special attention to biblical formation.
Archaeological excursions and topographical visits help integrate the study of the Holy Scriptures.
The presence of both Jewish and Muslim believers, as well as other Christian denominations, favours an ecumenical approach and efforts towards inter-religious dialogue.


For both academic studies and community life the medium of communication is English. A knowledge of Italian is cultivated.


An excellent library of around 65,000 volumes and 120 periodicals provides indispensable tools for study

The 'Ratisbonne' story

Fr Marie Alphonse Ratisbonne was born Jewish (Strasbourg, France, 1 May 1814) but converted to Catholicism. He was son and heir of a wealthy, aristocratic family of Jewish bankers.  When he was still a child his older brother had converted to Catholicism and become a priest. Alphonse vowed never to speak to him again.

Circumstances brought him to Italy, in preparation for marriage.  While visiting Naples he mistakenly took a carriage to Rome.  There he stayed with a friend, who had another friend, a Catholic. The latter gave Ratisbonne a Miraculous Medal. Not wanting to seem rude, he took it saying "If it does me no good, at least it will do me no harm". At a certain point he found himself waiting for his friend in the San Andrea delle Frate Basilica in Rome.  In his own words, "I was scarcely in the Church when total confusion came over me. When I looked up it seemed to me that the entire church had been swallowed up in shadow except one chapel. It was as though all the light was concentrated in that single place. I looked over towards this chapel....and above the altar was a living figure, tall, majestic, beautiful and full of mercy. It was the Most Holy Virgin Mary, resembling her figure on the miraculous medal".

On 31st January 1842, soon after the vision, Alphonse received baptism. He assisted his brother in founding the Sisters of Sion in 1843 and was himsefl ordained priest in 1847.  He brought the Sisters to Jerusalem in 1855 and built the Ecce Homo Convent (near the Flagellation in the Old City).  Soon after he began construction of an orphanage which he soon moved to a hill outside the Old City - the place and building now known as the Ratisbonne Monastery.  He built a third convent at Ein Karem, where he died on 6 May 1884.

In more recent times the building has been used as a Centre of Christian-Jewish dialogue. It was also used in preparation for the signing of the Fundamental Agreement between Israel and the Holy See in December 1993.  The 'Montezemolo Room' (now the Rector's Office) recalls the many unofficial and indeed secret meetings leeding up to the signing involving personages such as Archbishop Claudio Celli and Cardinal Andrea Cordero lanza di Montezemolo.

Address: Salesian Monastery Ratisbonne
26, Rehov Shmuel Hanagid
91072 Jerusalem Israel
Tel: (972) -2-6259171
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