As a result of an accord signed between Prince Richard of Cornwall (brother of the King of England) and the Sultan of Egypt, Es-Saleh Ayyub (April 23, 1241) the Frankish clergy returned to Jerusalem in 1241. This is the second return of the crusader clergy to the Holy Places by means of negotiations between two high authorities. It is highly unlikely that the Oriental clergy also returned to their posts in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
In order to defend himself against a strong league formed by the Sultans of Damascus, Homs, Kerak, and the Crusaders of Acre, the Sultan As-Saleh Ayyub called upon ten thousand Khawarismian Turks who were stationed on the Euphrates River to come to his assistance. When these new barbarians arrived in the Holy Land they killed the defenseless Christians. They burned and ruined churches and monasteries.
On July 11, 1244 they besieged Jerusalem itself. The small Crusader garrison defended itself well. Nonetheless, the Khawarismians succeeded in penetrating the city. They massacred the Christian population. The Crusaders withdrew on August 24th. The Khawarismians killed the Christians in the streets and in their houses. They finally entered the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where the old people, children, and monks had taken refuge. The invaders slit the throats of the Western and Eastern clergy alike. They profaned and destroyed all that was sacred and Christian. (*16)
This third loss of Jerusalem apparently was the cause of despair for the Frankish Clergy who resided in Acre and for the small Latin Kingdom of the Mediterranean Coast. However it was not to last. The armies of the league prepared themselves for battle. The confrontation took place on October 17, 1244 at a site between Gaza and Ashkelon. Despite the resistance of the Crusaders, the bloody battle was a disaster for the armies of the league. For the Crusaders in particular it proved to be a second Horns of Hattin. In this miserable situation it was rightly feared that the end of the Latin Kingdom was at hand.
After the victory at Gaza was reported to the Sultan of Egypt, As-Saleh Ayyub, he went to Jerusalem to receive an account of the damages and massacres perpetrated by the Khawarismians. He immediately commanded the restoration of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. He also ordered that the front of the Church be closed. He placed eight responsible custodians at the entrance. These guardians were members of the highest authority in Jerusalem! Together they were to open and close the door for those pilgrims who had paid the established tax. (*17) It was their custom to enter the Church at about 3 o'clock in the afternoon and to remain there all night, finally leaving the following morning, between 6 o'clock and 9 o'clock. The pilgrims were able to visit any place inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. They could pray and hold processions in the middle section of the church. At night, those who wished could take lodgings in the room adjoining the Chapel of the Apparition. No clergy lived in the interior of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This desolation lasted another sixty years.
After the devastating tempest of the Khawarismians had abated, the Latin and Oriental clergy in Bethlehem were once again able to return to their previous posts. This situation would last only a short time.
*17 - For the story of the keys, doors, and doorkeepers of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, cf. S. De Sandoli, Church of the Holy Sepulchre: Keys, Doors, and Doorkeepers, Jerusalem 1986, 21.