Oriental studies have been strongly rooted in the Ambrosiana since the origins of the collections of manuscripts and ancient prints assembled for Federico Borromeo by his delegates, including Michele Maronita and Domenico Gerosolimitano, who bought books for him from Corfu, Crete, Jerusalem, Baghdad, Cairo and other cities in the Near East and North Africa.
The founder of the Ambrosiana personally cultivated such studies, being interested in Arabic, Syriac and Hebrew, rabbinical exegesis, Jewish philosophy and the Kabbala. The rich fund of books of an Oriental character includes polyglot codices, many of them richly illuminated and dealing with history, science and literature. Hence the proceedings of this Class are inspired by a heritage of extraordinary value, including other cultures such as Iran and Islam, with its disciplines embracing the history of art and science, the miniature and codicology.
In the Classis Orientalis, Arabists, Armenists, Biblicists, Hebraists and Syriacists work together, promoting publications, seminars and research in keeping their specific areas of competence. The 15 founding Academicians in 2009 have been joined today by another 65 from 14 different countries.
The activities, on the impulse of the Academic Board, the Executive Council, the Scholarly Committee and the Academic Secretariat, in harmony with the general orientation given by the President of the Academy, concern the annual Academic Dies (2009-2018), publications of miscellaneous volumes in the “Orientalia Ambrosiana” series, and initiatives of study, cataloguing and research. The principal seminars and summer courses have focused on Arabic and Jewish codicology and palaeography, the Syriac manuscripts in the Ambrosiana and Arab philosophy. The Academician Renato Traini, meritorious for the original impulse that he gave to the Ambrosian Academy, bequeathed his library of Arabic studies to the Ambrosiana.
In the Class, academic partnerships are active with the Saint Ephrem Ecumenical Research Institute (SEERI) of Kottayam, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the University of Tel Aviv.