Conrad Schick: Jerusalem Architect Extraordinaire

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(the israel bible)

April 13, 2023

3 min read

Conrad Schick was a remarkable man who left his mark in the landscape of Jerusalem through his research and architectural planning. He was born in the early 19th century in Germany and first arrived in the city in the 1840s as a missionary, seeking to convert the Jewish population to Christianity. However, as he soon discovered, this mission would lead to a dead end as most Jews had no intention of abandoning the faith of their fathers and would be extremely offended by the notion that they should embrace Christian beliefs. Schick soon realized that his efforts would be better spent in other avenues.

It was during this time that Schick discovered his fascination with archaeology and love for architecture. He began to study the ancient city of Jerusalem and the various buildings and structures that had been built there throughout history. He became particularly fascinated with the Temple Mount and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, two of the most important religious sites in the holy city and for many in the whole world.

Schick’s passion for architecture led him to become one of the most important architects of 19th-century Jerusalem. He was responsible for designing and building many of the most iconic buildings in the city, including the core ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim. His designs were often complimented by his historical and archaeological research, and he was meticulous in his attention to detail.

One of Schick’s most significant achievements was the creation of detailed models of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount in different periods of history spanning from Herod’s expansion of the holy mount and magnificent remake of the Second Temple which stood at the time of Jesus in the first century, and the same site as seen by Schick himself in the 19th century with great details of the Islamic shrines, the Dome of the Rock and the Al Asqa mosque and all of the other historic buildings in the complex. He spent years studying ancient texts and archaeological evidence to create these models, which were incredibly accurate and detailed. Some of his models are still on display today at the Schmidt School and at the Christ Church in Jerusalem.

One Schick’s most significant contribution to the city of Jerusalem was his work on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This church, which is believed to be the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection, had fallen into disrepair over the centuries. Schick’s work on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was groundbreaking. It is said that he also discovered several hidden chambers within the church, which had been sealed off for centuries. These discoveries helped to shed new light on the history of the church and its significance to the Christian faith.

At the request of the Ottoman rulers, Conrad Schick undertook a complex mapping project of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which had been divided between various rival churches, sects, and dominations. The task was daunting, as the division of the church was complicated and often contentious. Schick meticulously documented each area of the church, creating detailed maps that helped to clarify the boundaries between different groups. His work was instrumental in resolving disputes between the various factions and restoring a sense of order to the ancient church. Today, Schick’s maps remain an important resource for historians, archaeologists, and visitors to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

The Tabor House was built as the private residence of Conrad Schick on HaNeviim street in Jerusalem. Its unique structure incorporated archaeological artifacts, including ancient carved stones and ornaments, which Schick had collected from his many excavations in the city. The house was named after Mount Tabor, a significant biblical site located in northern Israel, which was believed to be the site of the Transfiguration of Jesus. The Tabor House was designed in a neo-Romanesque style and featured many distinctive architectural elements, including arches, columns, and ornate carvings. Today, the Tabor House serves as a Swedish theological institute. With permission visitors can explore the building and its many artifacts.

Despite his many achievements, Schick faced significant challenges during his time in Jerusalem. As a Protestant in a predominantly Jewish and Muslim city, he was often viewed with suspicion. He also faced opposition from some of the more conservative elements of the Christian community, who were resistant to change and innovation.

Schick remained committed to his work and his vision for Jerusalem. He continued to design and build new buildings, including schools, hospitals, and other public institutions. He also remained actively involved in archaeological research, continuing to study and document the history of the city and its many ancient structures.

Today, Schick’s legacy lives on in the city of Jerusalem. Many of the buildings he designed and built still stand, and his detailed models of the city and the Temple Mount continue to inspire and educate visitors. He is remembered as a pioneering architect and archaeologist, who made a significant contribution to the preservation and restoration of one of the world’s most important historical and religious sites.

David Ha’ivri is a professional tour guide based in Jerusalem, Israel. He has been guiding visitors to Israel for over 20 years, providing unique and informative tours of the country’s beautiful nature trails, its historical and religious sites.

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