Franciscan orphanage - Maria Bambina  בית היתומות הפרנציסקאני 'מריה במבינה', دار أيتام الفرنسيسكان - ماريا بامبينا

A neo-Renaissance style structure in the heart of the Christian Quarter (about 200 meters from the New Gate and about 80 meters from the Holy Sepulcher Church). The building has three upper floors and a foundation floor built around an inner courtyard. The façade has a symmetrical array of windows with an entrance in the center. A stone staircase leads to the main entrance, which is accentuated by a gable. The building was inaugurated in 1891 and was intended to serve as an orphanage for girls, run by the Franciscan Order*. The orphanage for boys was in the Monastery of St. Saviour-Custody of the Holy Land (site no. 346). Today the two orphanages are not active, and the compound is used for other things. The building includes: a convent for Nuns, a guesthouse for pilgrims and volunteers, a dining room, a chapel, and residences for communities such as Community Canção Nova, Communion and Liberation. It is run by nuns from the Franciscan Order of Saint Elizabeth and is owned by the Franciscans Friars order. The purpose and mission of the Order in the Holy Land (as well as of the order of the Nuns -Elizabeth's daughters and other Franciscan women's orders) is to preserve** the Holy Places***, and to cultivate the local community, and to assist the pilgrims.

*'Franciscans' – A Christian Catholic Order that was founded in 1209 by an Italian Catholic Friars who later became known as St. Francis - Francesco d'Assisi (9.26.1181-10.3.1226). The Order has been in the Holy Land since 1217 and has operated continuously in order to preserve the Holy Places and the Christian community. The Franciscan Order is the largest and most important religious order in Jerusalem and the province of the Holy Land is called the Custody of the Holy Land (in Latin - Custodia Terræ Sanctæ).

**The mission of the Order in the Holy Land: a) The Franciscan monks Lead religious services and mass. b) Maintain the orderly function and physical integrity of the sites. c) Accompany and guide pilgrims, assisting them on their visit to the holy sites.

***Sanctuaries : The Custody of the Holy Land is tasked with maintaining 24 sanctuaries, which are located in the current borders of Israel, Palestine, and Jordan: Acre ,Ein Kerem - Saint John the Baptist, Ein Kerem - St. John in the Desert, Ein Kerem - The Visitation, Bethany, Bethlehem ,Bethlehem - The Shepherds’ Field and Grotto, Bethphage, Cana, Capernaum, Dominus Flevit, Emmaus - El Qubeibeh, Flagellation, Getshemane, Holy Sepulchre, Jaffa, Jericho, Mount Nebo, Mount Tabor, Naim, Nazareth, Nazareth - Saint Joseph, Tabgha and Magdala, Tiberias.


  1. The religious Christian construction that was prevalent in the city at the end of the 19th century was intended to demonstrate the political-economic-religious presence and influence in the Old City. The churches and the Christian powers sought to give the buildings a special status and historical significance. Most of the buildings were established for either religious purposes (prayer, theological research), education (schools and educational institutions), health and welfare (hospitals, clinics, pilgrim lodges), or for economic purposes (commercial construction for rental purposes). The European powers sought to provide for the needs of followers and pilgrims through the churches, thereby increasing their political influence in Palestine and gaining a religious and political foothold in Ottoman-Muslim Jerusalem.
  2. Pilgrims may receive a "Certificate of Pilgrimage in the Holy Land" from the Franciscan Information Center as a souvenir. The certificate bears the psalm “If I forget you Jerusalem, let my right hand wither.....” (Ps. 136:5). This quotation prefaces the following declaration- "In the name of God. Amen". It then says- To whomsoever this letter is consigned, we attest that: (the pilgrim’s name is inserted) has happily reached Jerusalem and devotedly visited the Holy Places (date and signature).
  3. A flag bearing the Jerusalem Cross, also known as the Cross of the Holy Land, flies at the entrance to the building. The cross of the Holy Land is a Greek cross in red on a white background with four smaller crosses, one in each quadrant. This cross is the symbol of the Custody of the Holy Land. The traditions surrounding this symbol are based on the evocation of the Passion of Christ and his universal supremacy. The four small crosses together with the large cross symbolize the Five Holy Wounds. In addition, the four crosses represent the four ends of the earth, and the cosmic presence of divine power.

Franciscans 'Order of Friars Minor' in the Holy Land

An order of Catholic Friars- Franciscans 'Order of Friars Minor' O.F.M have been a presence in the Holy Land since 1217. The Order was founded in 1209 by St. Francis of Assisi (1226-1181) in Italy. St. Francis was a member of an affluent noble family who, as a youth, experienced an epiphany- Jesus Christ calling on him to act for the Catholic Church. St. Francis began preaching to people around Italy. He devoted himself to a life of poverty. In 1210, Pope Anastasius III (1198-1216) approved the establishment of the Little Brothers. In 1223 the regulations of the Order were approved by Pope Honorius III (1227-1216). These regulations required the monks to obey vows of obedience, poverty, and celibacy. The Custody of the Holy Land, also called Custodia Terræ Sanctæ was founded in 1263. In 1342, Pope Clement VI officially appointed the Franciscan Order to act as the Custodian of the Holy Places and other assets of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land. The Order established its hold on the monastery on Mount Zion, and after a power struggle with the Ottoman authorities, in 1560, it founded the monastery of St. Savior as the headquarters of the Order in Jerusalem. The Franciscan Order works for the benefit of local communities, giving spiritual, social, and educational assistance. They have established schools, youth and community clubs, hospitals, nursing homes, and clinics. The Order also aids pilgrims through Commissariats (see above) and through the Christian Information Center at the Jaffa Gate. The center was established to provide spiritual and administrative assistance in all matters relating to the needs of pilgrims in Israel. Among other things, the center coordinates visits and prayers at holy sites, arranges guides and accommodations, ecumenical support and liturgy, and orientation


Commissariat of the Holy Land in Canada
96 Empress Avenue
Ottawa, Ontario  K1R 7G3

The Offices of the Commissariat are open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Fridays from 8 a.m. to Noon

PHONE: (613) 737-6972

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