Near the top of the Mount of Olives, overlooking the Temple Mount in the heart of ancient Jerusalem, is a small monastery of French-speaking Benedictine nuns. They are autonomous like all Benedictine communities. Their work, in addition to household chores, is twofold: to welcome and host visitors and pilgrims, and the icon workshop. Their master iconographer for over fifty years was Sister Marie-Paul (1930-2019). She painted in the Byzantine style, faithfully following the ancient patterns and colors, and made many creations in her own style. The other sisters of her community helped her in the early stages of the work, preparing the wooden boards, laying the gold leaf, and applying the first layers of color.
Sister Marie-Paul passed away in May 2019. She was a holy woman, a person whose life and spirit were illuminated by icon writing. She knew how to transmit the message of icons to the many, many groups she hosted.
Born in Egypt to a Palestinian and Italian family, she deeply felt the tensions between Arabs and tensions between Arabs and Jews in the Holy Land.
She prayed and offered her life and presence for peace in the land where Christ was born and for unity.
The beauty of her icons corresponded to the beauty of her heart. Sister Marie-Paul's icons can be found in churches and individual collections around the world.
Sister Marie-Paul (Marie-Thérèse) Farran, O.S.B.: Born in Cairo, Egypt, November 10, 1930; took her monastic vows August 15, 1957; died May 8, 2019.
Photo Copyright Joel Fishman, courtesy of Catholic Near East magazine