Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian financed the building of a library in Jerusalem in memory of his parents, Sarkis and Dirouhie, and in honour of the 50th anniversary of the ordination to the priesthood of Archbishop Yegishe Tourian, Patriarch of the Armenians in Jerusalem.
The Calouste Gulbenkian Library first opened on 23 October 1932. Initially, it comprised Patriarch Yegishe Tourian’s huge specialised collection and three other libraries already in the Patriarchate, one of which contained antique books. However, it was soon greatly enlarged by donations from all over the Armenian Diaspora.
Today, the Gulbenkian Library houses some 120,000 specialised works, a large collection of manuscripts (about 4,000), a similar number of Armenian incunabula (early printed books), a historical collection of newspapers and periodicals (about 350 titles) in the Armenian, Arab and Ottoman languages from the 19th century onwards, and a collection of archival documents dating back to the 14th century. The number and quality of its archives make it the most important library in the Armenian Diaspora, an essential source of reference for scholars in Armenian culture and for orientalists in general. It is also considered to be one of the richest libraries in the old city of Jerusalem.
In 2000, the Library underwent extensive restructuring and modernisation works, financed entirely by the Saint Sarkis Charity Trust in London and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon. The work has been hampered by the political situation in Jerusalem, but is now in its final stages and, together with the reorganisation of the collections which is in progress, is expected to allow the reopening of the Library in 2007.