Conrad Schick (1822-1901)
A German missionary and architect. In 1845, he was sent to Jerusalem as one of four missionaries to teach mechanical trades to young men. Schick became the leading architect in Jerusalem in his days, and many of his buildings, including his own home, still stand on the Street of the Prophets (Rehov Ha-Nevi`im).
He planned Mea Shearim in 1846. Joseph Rivlin, one of the leaders of the Jewish community in Jerusalem, was one of its founding fathers; and a Christian Arab from Bethlehem, who employed both Jewish and non-Jewish workers, was the construction contractor.
In Mea Shearim, the quarter’s gates were locked every evening and opened every morning. By October 1880, some 100 dwellings were ready for occupancy and lots for ownership of houses – in perpetuity – were drawn at a festive gathering. Four years later, 150 homes were ready; 300 by the turn of the century. A flourmill, the Berman bakery, and cowsheds were built – replacing Conrad Schick’s plan for the creation of an open green area in each courtyard. But it was the first quarter in Jerusalem to have streetlights. Today, Mea Shearim remains an insulated neighborhood with an ultra-orthodox population, and its synagogues, schools and shops cater to the needs of this community.
In the 1870s and 1880s the first Bukharian immigrants arrived in Jerusalem, from what is today Uzbekistan. They bought the land for their houses and employed Conrad Schick to plan the “Bukharian quarter”.
Schick was one of the leading pioneers of the exploration of Jerusalem’s ancient remains, regularly publishing his findings in the learned journals of the British and German societies dedicated to the exploration of Palestine, namely the Palestine Exploration Fund and the Deutscher Palästina-Verein. While Schick received considerable encouragement and support for his endeavors from Wilson at PEF headquarters in London, as attested by their frequent correspondence, he was cold-shouldered by Warren, who was directing reconnaissance surveys and excavations in Jerusalem on behalf of the Fund during the years 1867-70. In a letter to Wilson dated 15 December 1871, Schick, in his poor grammatical English, complained that “Captain Warren used my service only in a few and very exceptional cases, so to the most part I learned by his printed reports only what was going on” (PEF Archives, Schick 2). Yet, Schick, with his sharp eye for detail, subsequently provided superior information about the subterranean cisterns of the Haram.
Normally, the interior of the Haram was kept out of bounds to explorers, but in 1872 Schick was afforded an excellent opportunity to investigate this area. Turkey wished to be represented at the Great Exhibition to be held in Vienna, and the Austrian consul in Jerusalem persuaded them to put on display there a detailed model of the Haram al-Sharif. As Schick related in a letter to Charles Wilson, dated 7 June 1872, he was awarded the assignment of producing a suitable model in wood at a reasonable cost (PEF Archives, Schick 3). He wanted his model to be of value to “students of history and topography” and not merely a display of craftsmanship. It was exhibited with another model in the Turkish pavilion at the Vienna Exhibition of 1873 and later his agent, Rev. J.H. Brühl, sold them to the Mission House Museum in Basle, Switzerland, as they are informed in letters from Schick to Wilson, written between 16 June 1873 and 23 April 1874 (PEF Archives, Schick 7, and 9-11). Schick was determined to depict “the substructions (sic), cisterns and all underground buildings as well as those above grounds” (PEF Archives, Schick 3). He thereupon set about examining and recording as many of the subterranean features as he was able, during the years 1873 and 1875, and continued making models. Some of Schick’s models may still be seen in Jerusalem at the St. Paulus Hospice, better known as the Schmidt School, which is situated opposite the Damascus Gate. By Schick’s own admission, his monograph on the Tabernacle and the Temple, Die Stiftshütte, is largely a commentary on these models (Schick 1896:III-IV, 55).
This was a period when much needed repairs were being made to the Dome of the Rock by the Ottoman Turkish authorities, which brought builders and engineers into the Haram. These circumstances made it easier for Schick to gain access to areas normally barred to foreigners. He was able to observe digging operations and the clearance of blocked underground channels. Several of the cisterns were visited and recorded by him at this time. Schick’s drawings benefit considerably from his architectural knowledge. Much of this valuable material remains unpublished.
We are now engaged in a systematic study of the archival material held by the Palestine Exploration Fund in London, including its holdings of Schick’s papers, focusing particular attention on documentary material, including correspondence and drawings, relating to the cisterns.
Just across the street from the Hartman Institute is one of Jerusalem’s strangest and most beautiful old buildings. It’s decrepit now, but the Hansen Government Hospital for Lepers is still operated by the Ministry of Health as an outpatient treatment facility. Built in 1887 by architect Conrad Schick, the compound sits on acres of some of the most expensive real estate in the city. The arched windows and elegant balconies look over 2 acres of gardens surrounded by an aging 7 foot high brick wall.
Conrad Schick began to realize a private dream: a home for himself and his family. It was completed in 1889. He named his home Tabor House. Located at No. 58 Street of the Prophets, a large beautiful building, with traces of old and new, western and eastern styles, within a walled courtyard. Schick took its name from Psalm 89:12: “The north and the south, Thou has created them; Tabor and Hermon shall rejoice in Thy name”. Palm leaves with the carved Greek letters Alpha and Omega, symbolizing the beginning and the end, decorate the facade of his house.
When Conrad Schick died in Jerusalem in 1901, Jews, Moslems and Christians alike mourned him. He is buried in the Protestant Cemetery on Mount Zion.