Near the summit of the Mount of Olives, overlooking Temple Mount in the heart of ancient Jerusalem, is a small convent of French-speaking Benedictine nuns. They are self-supporting like all Benedictine communities. Their work is of two kinds: they provide room and board for young girls who attend convent schools in Jerusalem and they write beautiful icons.
Their master iconographer for many years was Sister Marie-Paul (1930-2019). She painted in the Byzantine style, following faithfully the ancient patterns and colors. The other nuns in her community helped with the less exacting parts of the work, preparing wood panels and applying gold leaf.
Sister Marie-Paul passed away in May 2019. Abbot Primate Gregory Polan of Conception Abbey first came to know her in he was a seminarian studying in Israel in 1976, which began a lifelong friendship. She wrote the icons of St. Joseph and St. Benedict which grace our abbey basilica, as well as an icon of the Paschal Mystery which hangs in the monastery. She was a truly holy woman, someone whose writing of icons formed her life and her spirit. Born in Egypt of Palestinian and Italian descent, she deeply felt the tensions between Arabs and Jews in the Holy Land, praying and offering her life and presence for peace in the land of Christ’s birth. The beauty of her icons matched the beauty of her heart.
Sister Marie-Paul's icons may be found in churches and individual collections all over the world. The Printery House sells many of her icons, and is pleased to be the exclusive printer and distributor for reproductions in the USA.
Sister Marie-Paul (Marie-Thérèse) Farran, O.S.B.: Born in Caire, Egypt, 10 November 1930. Professed monastic vows August 15 1957, died May 8, 2019.
Photo Copyright Joel Fishman, courtesy of Catholic Near East magazine