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Shoghi Effendi:

by Ugo Giachery

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Chapter 15

[page 170]


The First Mashriqu'l-Adhkar of the Holy Land

THE table conversations of Shoghi Effendi revolved mostly around the developments of the Faith, his far-sighted plans, and the glory of the events to come. The fascination of his manner of speaking with great conviction kept me spellbound every time I sat at his table. His assurance gave me the impression of an Argonaut who, navigating the seas in search of some rare treasure or unknown land, was always ahead of himself, seeing far beyond the power of human eyes. No one could entertain the slightest doubt that the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh would cover the earth, as he often stated, and that for the first time in the evolution of the religious thought of man, a Spiritual Centre of a conscious and universal Faith would be implanted in the heart of God's holy mountain.

In previous pages, I have tried to illustrate how much Shoghi Effendi laboured to initiate this magnificent plan and carry it to the tangible embodiment which he achieved. To him the spiritual trilogy was represented by the Most Holy Shrines of Bahá'u'lláh and of the Báb, and by the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar, which from the summit of Mt. Carmel would, as a silent teacher, proclaim the One Faith of Bahá'u'lláh. I happened to be in Haifa when Shoghi Effendi, fulfilling one of 'Abdu'l-Bahá'í longings, was directing the preparation of the design for the Temple to be erected on the holy mountain. By the end of May 1952 the project had been fully accepted and approved by the Guardian. The drawing was taken to Florence, Italy, to be developed in detail by a professional man, after the completion of which a wooden model was made by a specialist in Rome.[*] This model was presented and placed on view at the Intercontinental Conference held in Chicago, in 1953, where Amatu'l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum, accompanied by the Vice-President of the International Bahá'í Council, Hand of the Cause Mrs. Amelia Collins, represented the Guardian. The model is now in the main hall of the Mansion in Bahji, awaiting the day when it will be erected on Mt. Carmel. At the time the design was completed, no land was yet available, although Shoghi Effendi had often expressed the need to secure it in a dominant position on the holy mountain, and had almost pinpointed the location he considered desirable and essential.

    * See The Bahá'í World XII, p.548, for a photograph of this model

It was to be on the very top of the western end of Mt. Carmel, as close as possible to the site where the Blessed Beauty planted His tent on one of His visits to the holy mountain: an advantageous location that would permit the Temple to be seen from every point of approach, for it would tower above any other construction that could be erected at a future date upon that promontory. For centuries the land that Shoghi Effendi wanted was owned by a religious order which had built there a monastery in the twelfth century, but had left the rest of the land uncultivated and unused in any other manner.[*] Shoghi Effendi directed the Hand of the Cause and Secretary-General of the International Bahá'í Council, Mr. Leroy Ioas, to investigate the matter and conduct negotiations for the purchase of enough land to permit, at a future time, the erection of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar and the landscaping of its surroundings. In his message addressed to the Intercontinental Conference of New Delhi, in 1953, Shoghi Effendi announced preliminary steps taken to acquire the land, made possible by the munificent donation of one hundred thousand dollars by the Hand of the Cause Mrs. Amelia Collins. I was at that Conference and remember the joy and enthusiasm of the friends who voted to send Mrs. Collins the following telegram: 'Conference joyfully voted one voice express admiration abiding gratitude your generous gift land Mashriqu'l-Adhkar holy mountain.' The difficult and protracted negotiations for the land led almost nowhere as the owners were reluctant to part with even the smallest fraction of their possession. I became somewhat involved in the matter because of some contacts made with the head of that religious order who resided in Rome, but without any conclusive results. It was the deep esteem on the part of some of officials of the Israeli Government for Shoghi Effendi, and their appreciation of all the beautification he had accomplished in and around Mt. Carmel, redounding to the attraction and prestige of the city of Haifa, that brought a direct intervention on the part of the Israeli authorities in the negotiations, leading to the purchase of approximately twenty thousand square metres of land, at the very head of the Mountain of God.

    * See Appendix VI for additional information on the history of this land.

With great rejoicing, the Guardian announced the selection of the site and the availability of the needed funds in his message of April 1954 to the twelve National Conventions of the Bahá'í world. In this message there is far greater promise than may appear at first sight, for it reads: "The site for the first Mashriqu'l-Adhkar of the Holy Land has been selected ..."[28] It brought to my memory some of the enlightening statements he had made at table, some years before, on the future glory of the Holy Land and the significance of properties purchased at Bahá'u'lláh's bidding near the Sea of Galilee - forerunners of "noble and imposing structures throughout its length and breadth to be dedicated to the worship and service of the one true God".

    [28] See MBW p.63

Fulfilling to the letter his most cherished wish, the Faith now owns that land in the close vicinity of the blessed spot trodden by the footsteps of Bahá'u'lláh at the time He revealed the Tablet of Carmel - His Charter for the World Spiritual and Administrative Centres of the Faith - and near the ancient cave made famous by the presence of the Prophet Elijah.

On the last pilgrimage we made in December 1954, Angeline and I were highly privileged to be driven in Shoghi Effendi's automobile, at his invitation, to the Temple site, to pray on that hallowed spot and to visualize the luminous edifice which in time to come will rise in its loftiness on that holy mountain. When we saw him that same night, and he asked us our impressions of the location and the surroundings, his dear face was beaming with pride and joy.

[page 173]


Even before the site for the first Mashriqu'l-Adhkar of the Holy Land was purchased, Shoghi Effendi knew that it would be impossible to erect the edifice for many years to come. He planned therefore to place a marker in the middle of the land to indicate the hallowed spot on which the Temple would rise some time in the future. He sent word to me to ask my idea of what would be an appropriate manner to mark and celebrate such a future enterprise. I answered that the Romans used to celebrate men and events by erecting either a column or an obelisk, many examples being still visible in the Roman Forum and throughout the Eternal City. His decision was in favour of an obelisk, and a simple drawing was sent to me to secure an estimate of cost which was requested from four different firms. The choice fell upon the firm of Enrico Pandolfini, of Pietrasanta, whose bid was the most reasonable and was accepted by Shoghi Effendi on 12 April 1954. A final project was then prepared by Professor Ugo Mazzei, the architect of that firm, which the Guardian approved on 29 April by cablegram.

The structure consists of a quadrangular base surmounted by a pyramidal pillar tapering to a point, made of solid blocks of travertine,[*] with a mosaic on one side of the pillar - facing south - bearing the symbol of the 'Greatest Name'; the base is hollow and made of large slates of marble. The total height of the obelisk, from the lower plinth of the base to the tip of the needle, is eleven metres (thirty-six feet).

    * Travertine (Italian travertino) is a marble typical of Rome itself; most of the great ancient monuments and more recent buildings are built with this versatile marble which is found in the vicinity of the city. It is soft and easy to work when freshly quarried, but hardens on exposure. Both the Colosseum and the facade and colonnade of St. Peter's Basilica were built of this material.

Within the next few months, all the marble, more than twenty tons contained in many heavy wooden cases, was shipped to Haifa. It was not possible, however, to erect the obelisk during the remaining years of the Guardian's life, because the Israeli Government, for security reasons, would not allow the raising of such a visible structure during the years of unsettled relations with neighbouring countries. Permission came finally in 1971, and an announcement of the successful conclusion of the project was given by the Universal House of Justice on 19 December 1971 in these terms:

"After many years difficult negotiations erection obelisk marking site future Mashriqu'l-Adhkar Mount Carmel completed thus fulfilling project initiated beloved Guardian early years Crusade."[29]

    [29] BN February 1972 p.2
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