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Fr. Columba Stewart is kind of like a cross between a Benedictine monk and Indiana Jones!

Since becoming the executive director of the Hill Monastic Manuscript Library (HMML) at St. John’s Abbey in 2003, Columba has traveled extensively throughout the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and India, cultivating relationships with communities possessing manuscript collections from the early medieval to early modern periods. Father Columba has overseen the expansion of HMML’s manuscript preservation projects in these regions from one project in Lebanon to projects located in more than a dozen countries.

Since that time, HMML has photographed tens of thousands of manuscripts in many of the world’s most dangerous and difficult-to-reach places. HMML has given priority to preserving the manuscript collections of persecuted or endangered minorities in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia, as well as communities affected by war and dislocation in Eastern Europe. In 2013, Father Columba forged a partnership agreement with SAVAMA-DCI, Malian NGO, to digitize manuscripts rescued from Timbuktu, Mali. This is HMML’s largest project in its five decades of manuscript preservation work, potentially exceeding 250,000 documents. Recently, a new project has begun in Timbuktu itself. HMML makes all of these resources available online.

A graduate of Harvard, Yale, and Oxford universities, Father Columba has published extensively in his research field of early Christian monasticism and received numerous grants and fellowships in support of his scholarship.

Father Columba and HMML have been featured on many international media outlets, including the CBS news program, “60 Minutes,” BBC Radio Newshour, The Atlantic, The Economist, Harvard Magazine, PBS Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, The Wall Street Journal, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

You can view Columba’s 2019 Jefferson Lecture at the National Endowment for the Humanities by clicking the link below (His talk begins at 53 minutes):

Father Columba Stewart, American Benedictine monk, scholar of early religions, and executive director of the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, will deliver the lecture at the Warner Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Doors open at 7:00 p.m. The lecture, “Cultural Heritage Present and Future: A Benedictine Monk’s Long View,” is a free public event and will also stream live online.Dubbed “the monk who saves manuscripts from ISIS,” by Atlantic magazine, Stewart has spent 15 years working with international religious leaders, government authorities, and archivists to photograph and digitize ancient to early modern religious manuscripts, especially those at risk due to war, strife, or economic uncertainty.

Posted by National Endowment for the Humanities on Monday, October 7, 2019


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