update deskArchaeology

George V’s coat-of-arms identified on walls of early Jerusalem hospital

“These walls continue to talk to us and reveal Jerusalem’s history,” said archeologist Amit Re’em.

King George V Coat of Arms (from Statute of Westminster 1931). Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
King George V Coat of Arms (from Statute of Westminster 1931). Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Coats-of-arms of British nobility, including that of King George V, were identified in one of modern Jerusalem’s first hospital buildings, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Monday.

New research at the British ophthalmologic hospital revealed, etched on its walls, a sign of thanks to British nobility for its construction, the state-run archaeological body said.

Symbols of noble families that were discovered on the walls of the hospital. Illustrations by Anastasia Prokofyeva.

The insignia included that of the head of the iconic Irish beer company, Lord Iveagh (Edward Cecil Guinness) the richest man in Ireland at the time. Over the years the hospital building, located near opposite Jaffa Gate in the walled Old City, became an art and culture exhibition center known as the Jerusalem House of Quality.

The ophthalmologic hospital was founded in 1882 by the Order of Saint John, and played a pivotal role in healing eye diseases common in the Holy Land.  Patients came to the hospital from all over the Middle East. The British Mandate period saw it expand significantly, adding a wing.

The tumultuous events of World War I and the 1948 War of Independence left their marks on different parts of the complex. As the decades progressed, one wing became the Mount Zion Hotel, while the other became the arts complex. As time passed, the public forgot about the identities behind these coats of arms, and many were damaged or destroyed.

Shai Halevy and Michael Chernin of the Israel Antiquities Authority during the research on the coats of arms. Photo by Shai Halevy/IAA.

Recently, a team from the Israel Antiquities Authority identified 18 out of the 23 visible insignias belonging to British nobility.  The coats of arms include King George V (ruled 1910-1936); Major-General Aldred Lumley, 10th Earl of Scarbrough (1857-1945); Edward Cecil Guinness (1847-1927); architect Henry Busis (1881-1965); shipbuilder Henry Grayson (1865-1951); and Jewish aristocrat Sir Edward Stern (1854-1933), uncle of philanthropist Vera Salomons, the 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 IAA’s Dr. Amit Re’em. “For us, archaeology does not stop in ancient times; these are relatively modern finds. But in addition to our other responsibilities, we are investigating that which will become archaeology in the future.”

According to IAA Director Eli Escusido, “Every stone in Jerusalem tells a story. Our researchers turn over every stone, literally and figuratively, to uncover Jerusalem’s fascinating history, in all its expressions and cultures.”

The coats of arms will go on display later this month.

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