Jerusalem’s Notre Dame Guesthouse — Catering To Your Soul
When even secular Christians come to the Holy Land, says Father Kelly, and see Sea of Galilee is not a myth, visit cave in Bethlehem, tour Nazareth and Jerusalem, ‘their protective superstructure melts’.
In the spring of 1882, French Baron Amadeus Marie Paul de Piellat led the first penitential pilgrimage to Jerusalem. It was called the Grand Caravan de Mille: the Pilgrimage of the Thousand. Anxious to atone for their sins, 1,000 rich, devout French Catholics made the trip to the Holy City.
Unfortunately, there were not, as yet, suitable overnight accommodations in Jerusalem for such a large group. So de Piellat pitched tents on land he owned just outside the Old City walls, next to the hospital he had founded a few years earlier (see At Crusader-themed French Hospital, patients of all faiths find joy amid their suffering). Which was lucky, for the wind that rocked their tents and the rain that leaked inside caused quite a few of them to become ill.
Just beyond their tent city, just a few dozen meters away, the French group viewed, with envy, Russian Orthodox pilgrims being happily ensconced in brand new hostels. Worse still, their lodgings offered an unobstructed view of the Old City.
As soon as the pilgrims returned to France they took up a collection, and in 1884 construction began on the enormous Notre Dame monastery and guesthouse situated next to the hospital. The French Consul was present at the groundbreaking ceremonies, turning this into a national enterprise which, coincidentally, blocked the Russian view. Called Notre Dame de France, this was the largest single building constructed in Jerusalem before World War I and could house 1,600 pilgrims in its 410 rooms.