The Peaceful Liberation of the Holy Places in the XIV Century

II - 2 The Right to Bring Back Christian Worship to the Holy Places

The history of the early post-Crusader years proves that only those Christian governments that demonstrated friendship with the Sultan of Egypt dared to hope for some success in their diplomatic endeavors. These petitions were usually concerned with the following matters: the renewing and intensifying of mutually beneficial commerce; the liberation of Christian prisoners; the freedom of worship for native Christians; the opening and restoration of Christian churches; the liberty and security of Christian pilgrims from all nations and their visits to the Holy Land.(*33)
The Western governments did not dare to speak about restitution or the possibility of cult in the Holy Places immediately after the fall of Acre. As has already been stressed, this was due to either the instability of the Egyptian government or because these questions were still burning issues. They could be discussed only after many years of good will.
At the beginning of the Fourteenth Century Mujir Ed-Din wrote in his Chronicle that an embassy of the King of Georgia arrived in Jerusalem (July 25, 1305). The envoys included representatives of Andronicus II Paleologus, the Emperor of Constantinople. The purpose was to ask the deputy of the Sultan, who had certain legal rights to act in the Sultan's name, for possession of the church and convent of the Holy Cross, two kilometers from Jerusalem. It had been occupied by the Arabs (1293) after the fall of Acre (1291). After much perseverance, they were successful and it was restored to the Georgian monks.(*34)
This first successful attempt encouraged the same Georgian monks to appeal again to the Sultan. Through the intervention of the Emperor of Constantinople they asked for the rights to Golgotha (1308).(*35) It was probably in these circumstances that they were able to return to Calvary and that they received permission for two monks to be allowed to stay enclosed in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Their presence at that site would be confirmed by western pilgrims twenty years later. It is not known for sure when the Georgians obtained possession of the keys to the Edicule of the Holy Sepulchre. They held them from 1340-1345.
We can say that with these concessions of the Sultan of Egypt the Christians again began to worship in the Sanctuaries, even though it was in a simplified and private form.
It is not so remarkable that the Georgians recovered the convent and church of the Holy Cross. There was no doubt of their ownership. The buildings had been lost only a few years previous to all these events. What is noteworthy is the Sultan's extraordinary benevolence, provisional as it was, in allowing the monks to occupy Calvary and to permit them to stay within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Without doubt there were reasons and events of the day which influenced the Sultan's decision. Perhaps if we turn to certain pages in the history of this subject we will be able to understand this event better.


*33 - Golubovich, Biblioteca Bio-bibliografica, III, mentioned throughout 75, 76, 77, 78, and 185.

*34 - Moudjir ed-Dyn, Histoire de Jérusalem et Hebron, traduite par Henry Sauvaire, Fragments de la Chronique, Paris 1876, 173-175: "L'église de Sainte Croix fut enlevée aux chrétiens, sous le r&eagrave;gne d'El Malek En-Naser Mohammed, fils de Qélaoun, et on y fit un Masdjed. Toutefois, en l'année 705 (Comm. 24 juillet 1305), une ambassade du roi de Géorgie et des envoyés du seigneur de Constantinople étant arrivés auprès du Lieutenant (Naïb) du dit El-Malek En-Naser, demandèrent qu'on leur rendît l'église. A force d'instances et de supplications, elle fut restituée et remise à leurs ambassadeurs".

*35 - R. Janin, "Les Géorgiens à Jérusalem", Echos d'Orient, 1913, 34. Janin does not report an historic text but quotes the Archimandrite Papadopoulos Kerameus (1891-1898). One should also consider what G. Golubovich says in the Biblioteca Bio-Bibliografica, IV, Quaracchi 1923, 86.

Return to The Peaceful Liberation of the Holy Places