Conrad Schick and His World

Almost anyone who loves the city of Jerusalem will be familiar with the name Conrad Schick, but fewer will know about what originally brought this man to Jerusalem in the mid-19th century. Schick was born in Germany in 1822 and attended university in Basel Switzerland before becoming associated with St. Chrischona, a Christian institution in the Swiss village of Bettingen. St. Chrischona was closely associated with the London Society for Promoting Christianity Amongst the Jews (the predecessor to CMJ) in its early years. From St. Crischona, Schick was commissioned to live and work in what was then the Ottoman Province of Palestine. He arrived in Jerusalem in October of 1846 and after several years, he joined the work of CMJ (known then
as London jews Society). Although not formally trained as an architect or a town planner, he designed and oversaw the construction of many buildings and is widely regarded as the father of modern Jerusalem.

The "Schick and His World Conference at Christ Church
Conrad Schick and his wife Fredrike in their home, 1896. 

Many of his buildings, including Beit Tabor, the house he designed and built for himself and his family on Prophets Street in Jerusalem, are still in daily use today. Other notable buildings he designed include Bikur Cholim hospital, also on Prophets Street, as well as the Jesus Hilfe hospital for lepers, which was far outside of Jerusalem at the time it was built. Today, the Jesus Hilfe building is at the center of one of the city’s most vibrant neighborhoods, adding color and fun in its new role as a center for culture, music, and art.

Schick also made an invaluable contribution to the archeological exploration of Jerusalem and throughout the Holy Land, even though he had never been formally trained as an archeologist. Nevertheless, he played a significant role in the Palestine Exploration Fund, one of the most important (albeit unintentional) British contributions to the development of what would one day be the modern nation-state of Israel. Schick spent the rest of his life in Jerusalem, dying here in 1901. He was buried in the Protestant cemetery on Mount Zion, mourned by Jews, Arabs, Europeans, Christians, Moslems and others.

Today, there are many memorials to Schick in Jerusalem, including the library at the Christ Church Heritage Center which houses several of the models Schick made of famous landmarks in ancient and modern Jerusalem. It was because of these models, and because of the many other connections Schick had with Christ Church, that Dr. Ruth Lawrence and Rector David Pileggi were invited to present a paper at a recent academic conference on Schick. The conference, entitled “Conrad Schick and His World”, was hosted by the University of Haifa and a number of other prestigious academic societies in Israel.

The two-day conference started with a series of papers presented at the Albright Institute for Archeology in Jerusalem. The papers covered a variety of topics related to Schick including the buildings he designed and built, some of the major archeological finds he was involved in and in general, his contributions to the development of the modern city throughout the second half of the 19th century. Dr. Lawrence, who is assisting with research at Christ Church on her break from her work with the University of Bendigo, presented a paper entitled “Conrad Schick’s Contribution to Industrial Trades in Jerusalem During Late Ottoman Times”.

The presentation, which David Pileggi assisted with, was focused on Schick’s role in setting up the House of Industry. This was a project launched by CMJ in its early years and designed to teach trades to individuals from a Jewish background who had accepted the Gospel and subsequently been ejected from the Jewish community in Jerusalem. This then led to them being cut off from the network of communal support on which they had previously been subsisting on. 

The House of Industry continued operations for many years, providing what today would be called job training for hundreds of people in Jerusalem. Along with the many schools and hospitals CMJ founded and ran during this period, the House of Industry played an important role in laying the groundwork for a modern economy in the city.

Dr. Lawrence’s presentation was well received and prompted many fruitful questions and discussions. It likely also prompted many of the conference attendees to come to Christ Church the following day for the second part of the conference, composed of visits to sights around the city connected to the papers presented on the first day.

The last stop on this field trip was the Christ Church compound, where attendees were given an opportunity to visit the Conrad Schick library and view the models on display there. A presentation was made by Mr. James Baker on the subject of “A Foot in the Door: the Establishment of a Recognised Protestant Presence in Jerusalem 1833 – 1879” which was followed by a reception. Again, the event prompted a great deal of fruitful interactions between the conference attendees and Christ Church staff, including David Pileggi, its enthusiastic host.

The "Schick and His World" Conference at Christ Church
The "Schick and His World" Conference at Christ Church

“We received many positive comments and a highlight for us was the appreciation for what a pioneer Conrad Schick was as well as what a man of character and faith,” said Pileggi. “People in Israel hold him in high regard, but they don’t often know what motivated him. This conference, especially the visit to the Heritage Center, gave us an opportunity to introduce that side of him to a group of academics who already know about his contributions in the fields of architecture and archeology, but probably know much less about his faith.”

“The conference coordinator, Dr. David Gurevich of the Hebrew University’s archeology department, was very happy with the event and thanked us for our part in making it a success,” Pileggi concluded. “But beyond that, the visit by this group of distinguished academics to Christ Church was, in some ways, a historic event. It enabled us to clear up some common misconceptions about the presence of CMJ in the Land, and I have high hopes that this will lead to a deepening of our relationship with the academic community in Jerusalem and lead to more opportunities for cooperation in the future.”



What a wonderful opportunity for Rev. Peleggi and Christ Church's staff. My husband Steve and I got to visit Conrad Schick's grave site on Mt. Zion in May 2022. We are looking forward to returning in September 2023.

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