Father Bellarmino Bagatti
Father Bagatti was born in the commune of Lari (Province of Pisa) on 11 November 1905. He took the religious habit in the Province of St. Francis on Mount La Verna in Tuscany at age seventeen and was ordained as a priest at age 23.
In recognition of his academic talents he was invited to attend the Pontifical Institute of Christian Archaeology in Rome, where he received his doctorate with highest honors in 1936. During this period he began his teaching career at the Studium Biblicum in Jerusalem, teaching topography and Christian archaeology.
Together with Father Sylvester Saller he initiated the series “SBF Collectio Maior” (1941) and, with Donato Baldi, co-founded the journal “SBF Liber Annus”(1951). After becoming director of the Studium he broadened its programs and increased the number of teachers. He also taught at the Studium Theologicum Hierosolymitanum in Jerusalem.
He received numerous academic awards and was a frequent participant in international conferences on archaeology, Sacred Scripture, the cult of the Virgin, St. Joseph, and apocryphal literature.
Among the excavations he carried out: the cemetery of Commodilla in Rome (1933-1934); the Sanctuary of the Beatitudes (1936); the Church of the Visitation at Ain Karem (1938); Emmaus-Qubeibeh (1940-1944); Bethlehem (1948); Dominus Flevit on the Mount of Olives (1953-1955); Nazareth (1954-1971); Mount Carmel (1960-1961); Mount Nebo (1935); and Khirbet el-Mukhayyat. His vocation as a teacher led him to undertake innovative educational initiatives to foster the growth of his friars, one example being the “Course for biblical-theological updating” which began in 1969 and continues today.
As a result of his scientific contribution, the Holy Places can no longer be considered merely pious traditions of the Franciscans, and the international scientific community now recognizes that these archaeological sites preserve the memory of ancient places and of the first Judeo-Christian communities.
In particular, Bagatti’s participation in the excavations at Bethlehem led to the study of the areas around the monastery and adjacent to the Grotto of the Nativity. His scientific support contributed to a more precise understanding of the nature of the Constantinian-era octagon, which had been discovered during the British excavations of the 1930s.