26. January 1949 - Beckmann Gottfried
† in Cologne
The life story of Brother Beckmann leads us to the work of the General Archives of the Society of Jesus. The beginnings of its archives go back to St Ignatius' organizational talent. Already 1544 the founder of the Order appointed Father Hieronymus Domenech secretary for this area. The basic stock of the archives is the formulas of the vows, the ballots, the depositions of ordination and the scientific diplomas of the First Fathers.
The archives were kept in the General Curia. By the political revolutions of Italy's union in the nineteenth century a special law from May 1873 ordered the confiscation of the libraries of the Order. The Jesuits tried to save their old archives from the unwanted attention of the new authorities. Thus the archives were brought from the Professed House first into the cellars of the princely palace Torlonia and three years later into the attic of the Germanicum. A part of the archives, above all the General Procura, was expropriated nevertheless and incorporated as 'Fondo Gesuitico' into the Public Record Office.
Since in the course of the years archives were no longer safe enough in Rome, Father Francis Ehrle, later cardinal, urged to accommodate them abroad. The choice fell on the new house of the Order in Exaten, Holland.
When in 1927 the college in Exaten was handed over to the Franciscans, the archives came to Valkenburg. From there it returned in the middle of August 1939 to Rome to the new General Curia, Borgo S. Spirito.
In 1924 Father Tacchi-Venturi could get back the 'Fondo Gesuitico' from the Italian state on the condition that the collection remained accessible for the studying.
Despite many, also larger gaps those archives are the most precious treasure of the Society of Jesus. The archives are mostly used not by the Curia but by the Fathers in the Writer House.
Brother Beckmann was born on December 10th 1863. At an age of twenty eight he entered in 1891 the Society of Jesus, and at an age of thirty six he began to work with the archives in Valkenburg. He also took care of the renovation of the many damaged documents. The gelantine which he introduced is still used today. Since 1935 also cellophane is helpful and proven.
When in the year 1939 the archives moved back to Rome Brother Beckmann was already old (76) and frail. He stayed in his province. He came to Münster, House Sentmaring, where he was the gate-keeper for some years, up to the expulsion by the Gestapo. After friendly accommodations in the Paulushaus (St Paul's House) Osnabrück and a well-known family in Mettingen, he moved into the new established noviciate Eringerfeld. Afterwards he and Brother Rosenberg found in the new set up ward in the residence in Cologne beautiful rooms and good care. In his mental freshness he had many interests and was pleased about each attendance. More and more he suffered from a paralysis of his hip, so that he was unable to walk. Nevertheless he was well balanced. When he was whistling and singing in his room one could hear him still in the garden.
In the morning of January 19th 1949 he was met by a stroke. He lost his consciousness, which he did not get back up to his death on the early morning of January 26th. While his Brethren were praying he peacefully passed away.
Each well cared-for archives sorts out occasionally things which are not of lasting value. The first large sorting out was made by Father General Mutius Vitellesci personally. He informed about it the Italian Provincials in a letter from April 15th 1617. He picked out the things that would not contribute to history or edification, and burnt them up without witnesses.
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