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Jerusalem Hospital Reveals Coats-of-Arms of British Nobility

Revealing the Tapestry of British Influence in Jerusalem's Historic Hospital.

In a remarkable discovery, the Israel Antiquities Authority has unveiled a series of early 20th-century British nobility and royal insignias on the walls of one of Jerusalem’s first modern hospitals. This groundbreaking study, conducted by Shai Halevy and Michael Chernin, meticulously mapped and identified these historical emblems.

The hospital, established by the Order of Saint John in 1882, was pivotal in treating eye diseases prevalent in the Holy Land and served patients across the Middle East. Located overlooking the Hinom Valley and facing Mount Zion near the Old City walls, the hospital expanded significantly during the British Mandate period. Contributions from British royalty and businesspeople, many of whom were members of the Order of St. John, funded a new wing. In recognition of their support, the hospital’s walls were adorned with their coats-of-arms.

Over the years, the building underwent significant changes. The eastern wing became the Mount Zion Hotel, while the western wing was repurposed as the Jerusalem House of Quality, an art and culture exhibition center. The turbulent events of World War I and the 1948 War of Independence left their marks on the structure, leading to damage and the gradual forgetting of many coats-of-arms.

Thanks to recent efforts by Halevy, Chernin, and illustrator Anastasia Prokofieva, 18 out of the 23 visible insignias have been identified. These belong to notable figures such as King George V, Major General Aldred Lumley, the famous Irish brewery magnate Edward Cecil Guinness, high-rise architect Henry Busis, and shipbuilder Henry Grayson. The shields also include that of Jewish aristocrat Sir Edward Stern, the uncle of philanthropist Vera Salomons, founder of the L.A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art in Jerusalem.

“These walls continue to talk to us and reveal Jerusalem’s history,” said Dr. Amit Re’em, Jerusalem Regional Archaeologist for the Israel Antiquities Authority. He highlighted the uncovering of a dedication inscription attributed to John Mason Cook during renovations at the Mount Zion Hotel. Cook, along with his father, founded the pioneering travel company Thomas Cook & Son.

In addition, the researchers found a mysterious stone inscription in the Hinom Valley below the hotel, identified as the hospital’s cornerstone. Dr. Re’em emphasized that archaeology encompasses both ancient and relatively modern finds, contributing to the historical narrative that will be preserved for the future.

An exhibition showcasing these coats-of-arms will open to the public at the Jerusalem House of Quality on June 20, offering a unique glimpse into Jerusalem’s multifaceted history.

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