The Peaceful Liberation of the Holy Places in the XIV Century

II - 6 The Results of the Negotiations at Cairo

After all these long and difficult negotiations what did the Sovereigns of Naples actually obtain?
a. The right to occupy the most sacred part of the three Sanctuaries;(*48)
At Bethlehem, all the Grotto of the Nativity, with the two lateral stairways, and at the top the bronze doors with the keys to open and close them; in the Church of the Tomb of the Madonna, the Edicule which contained the Tomb, with an altar to the north of the Edicule; in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre they obtained the southern half of Calvary, the Grotto of the Finding of the Cross, the Chapel of the Apparition of the Risen Jesus to His Mother with the adjoining Chapel of the Magdalen, and all the intervening space, and finally, and at that time only theoretically, the Edicule of the Holy Sepulchre. To all this they also obtained exclusive rights over the whole of the Cenacle.
b. The right to care for and repair the three Churches: of the Nativity, of the Tomb of the Madonna, and of the Holy Sepulchre. At this time these rights were only theoretical. In 1347 the right of possession of the Basilica at Bethlehem was recognized. Through the help of Queen Giovanna of Naples the right to the Church of the Tomb of the Madonna was obtained in 1362 along with the private use of the keys to the Church. The right to the possession of this Sanctuary was publicly confirmed in 1392 by Gérard Chauvet (Calveti), the Custos of the Holy Land. The right of possession of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was first given near the end of the Fourteenth Century because in 1397 the Franciscans received permission from the Sultan to repair parts of that Church.
c. The right of constructing and repairing convents. At the Cenacle, permission was given to begin immediate construction. At the other three Sanctuaries, permission for construction was deferred until a later, more opportune time. In Bethlehem the Franciscans were given the old Monastery of the Augustinians which had been ruined by Baybars in 1266. It was restored by the Franciscans. The Russian pilgrim Ignatius of Smolensk reports finding Franciscan Friars in the convent there in 1389. Permission to build a convent near the Tomb of the Madonna was never given despite the repeated requests of Peter IV of Aragon and Queen Giovanna of Naples (1362-1363). The small convent of the Holy Sepulchre was conceded sometime after 1377. In 1396 the Arab Clergy of the Greek Rite occupied a part of that convent, but they were removed by order of the Sultan.(*49)
d. The right of preeminence and precedence over all the Oriental Rites in religious functions was given. These two rights were recognized as incontestable. There were two reasons for this; 1. the sacred places were retained as the property of the government of the Franks; and 2. the Churches were open for certain religious solemnities according to the Roman Liturgical Calendar which the Franks followed. On these feasts the clergy and the faithful of the Eastern Rites were able to have their own ceremonies.(*50)
e. They received the faculty to sing a solemn Mass at the main altars on certain festivals of the year. In each Sanctuary the main altar was found in the central apse, facing east. These altars were given to the Arab clergy of the Greek Rite during the negotiations at Cairo.(*51) This right was reserved in view of the great numbers of pilgrims who were not able to be contained in the Grotto of the Nativity and the two small Edicules (Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Church of the Tomb of the Madonna). However, since it was rarely used, and because of other circumstances, this right is no longer exercised. The Choir area, east of the Edicule of the Holy Sepulchre, remains to this day as a Latin possession. Its location corresponds almost exactly to that which was east of the Anastasis (as it was before 1149). Today, on that spot, the religious choir assists and sings at the Mass sung at the Holy Sepulchre every day, except when the Mass is sung at one of the two Latin altars at Calvary.
When the negotiations in Cairo began between the Sovereigns of Naples and the Sultan of Cairo the various Eastern Religious had the official rights to these three Sanctuaries. The Arab Clergy of the Greek Rite had, as was mentioned, the three main altars which are found in the central apses of the Sanctuaries. They had possession of the adjoining Presbyteries. This privilege was probably given to them because this Eastern Rite was more represented in the territory and because they had exercised custody of the Holy Places which they held from 638 until 1071. The other Rites, not having an established precedent, received a place where they could have their own altars.
In short, we can say that the Sovereigns of Naples received the four Sanctuaries but with these qualifications: 1. in three of them some space was given to the clergy of various Eastern Rites; 2. the keys were entrusted to government doorkeepers.


*48 - Another example of this is the Edicule of the Ascension. To this day there is still evidence of the arrangement. Before the end of the Fourteenth Century the Franciscans, in the spirit of the negotiations of 1333, asked the Authorities in Jerusalem and at Cairo to restore to them (as Franks) the other Sanctuaries on the Mount of Olives. These had deteriorated considerably during the Moslem period. This request had been denied. It is probably, however, that on this occasion they were given permission to celebrate the Ascension of the Lord. The preparation for this feast began on the morning of the Vigil. They cleaned and decorated the Edicule (which was the actual Holy Place). That night the religious and the faithful who were present slept in the church (which was currently used as a mosque by a few poor Moslem families). The Feast of the Ascension was observed according to the Latin liturgical calendar.
The various communities of the Eastern clergy, either Catholic or Orthodox, were not recognized here as owners of the Sanctuary, as they were at the other Holy Places. That is, they were not considered heirs, as were the Franks of the 12th and 13th Centuries. Their right to celebrate the feast here depended upon the day of celebration according to the Latins (as it was at other Sites as well). They prayed separately according to their own rites, outside the Edicule, near the wall that had surrounded the Crusader church. This was also the arrangement which was practiced at the other three Sanctuaries (the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the Tomb of the Madonna, and the Holy Sepulchre).
The solemn celebration of the Ascension has been noted in only a few rare documents. The accounts come from pilgrims who participated in the liturgical functions that were led by the Franciscan clergy of Jerusalem. One particular report is noteworthy. Though brief, it reports the antiquity of the custom. The report comes from the itinerary of the French Bishop Louis de Rochechouart who visited Jerusalem from July 4th to July 18th 1461. Here are his exact words: "In loco hoc raro celebratur, sed, in die Ascensionis conveniunt omnes Christiani ad hunc sacratissimum locum pro solemnibus celebrandis: Latini, Armeni, Graeci,\ Iudi, etc." (Revue de l'Orient Latin, 1, 1893, 246).
A century later Boniface de Stefanis from Ragusa (†1581) named only Catholic clergy and faithful (De perenni cultu Terrae Sanctae, P. Cyprianus de Tarvisio, Venetiis 1875, 67.) In the afternoon of the Vigil they went to the Mount of Olives for the Office of First Vespers. Later they arose in the night to sing Matins. In the morning they celebrated Mass and finished the Office. Boniface noted that at that time the church had been destroyed. He explained that the Friars slept in the Edicule itself, as is clearly known from a very detailed description which is found in "Croniche o Annali di Terra Santa" by Pietro Verniero, Book II, Chapter 12, of the year 1636 (Cf. G. Golubovich, "Biblioteca Bio-bibliografica", NS., IX, Quaracchi 1936, 50-51.) The manner of the liturgical functions was very similar to those of today.
After this date, and likewise respected for its antiquity, the Franciscans erected more tents in the same area of the destroyed crusader church. These tents served as the sacristy, the refectory, and the dormitory of the Friars. In the following century we find the old custom taken so much for granted that it is included definitively in the Elenchus Caeremoniarum Terrae Sanctae (Lisbon 1754, 642, 9): (Fratres) "hic sub tentoriis perseverant omnes adusque sequentem diem".
In fact, when the Orthodox celebrate the Ascension on the same day as the Latins, the latter are the first to celebrate in the afternoon of the Vigil. At an established time they make their solemn entrance from the streets while singing the “Te Deum”. They process to the interior of the Edicule. Then the entrances of the Greeks, Armenians, Syrians, and Copts take place. At the conclusion of these entrances, when the Edicule is free, it is decorated by the Franciscans with a painting of the Ascension, with an altar, with a tapestry, with draperies on the walls, with an harmonium, and with chairs. Everybody enters inside the chapel (wherever there is space). They sing Vespers and then the Litany of the Saints. They process around the outside of the Edicule three times and return to the inside where they finish chanting Vespers.
Then the four Eastern Rites (mentioned above) begin to sing their Vespers in the tent-chapels which were erected against the eastern wall of the enclosure. At a precise moment in their chanting they enter the Edicule taking turns incensing the space, just as they do in similar circumstances in Bethlehem and at the Holy Sepulchre.
The custom for the tents was this: during this century the Franciscans have always put up two to the right and two to the left, occupying nearly half of the available space between the entrance and the Edicule. The tent-chapels of the four Eastern Rites occupied the space between the Edicule and the eastern enclosure wall. The approximate measurements of the tent-chapels are: Armenians (north of the other three), 13 meters by 7 meters, by 3 meters high; the Coptic, 4 meters by 2.5 meters, by 2.5 meters high; the Syrian, 4 meters by 3 meters by 3 meters high; and then the tent-chapel of the Greeks, from north to south, 14 meters by 5 meters by 3 to 4 meters high. Before their own tent-chapels and near those of the Latins, the Armenians and Greeks erected a pyramidal tent, about 4 meters in diameter, which is used as a sacristy.
In conclusion, after more than 600 years Moslem custody of the Site, the Moslems considered the Franks (Latins) as the true ex-owners of this Holy Place. This was especially true for the Edicule, as it was at the Church of the Nativity at Bethlehem, at the Edicule of the Tomb of the Madonna, and at the Tomb of the Lord at Jerusalem. This situation has remained unchanged.

*49 - N. Risciani, Documenti e firmani, Gerusalemme 1931: firman of Sultan Barquq, 49-53.

*50 - Verniero narrates a typical eastern custom practiced in the presence of the representatives of the Turks in Jerusalem in the 17th Century concerning the precedence of the Latin clergy: "essendo che il Padre Guardiano del Monte Sion tiene, come antico possesso e Commissario Apostolico, il primo luogo... fra tutti i prelati orientali, tanto nell'officiar o far processioni nel S. Sepulchro, quanto nel negotiar fra Turchi, sedendo (benchè in terra alla turchesca) appresso gli Bassà e Cadi, primo il nostro Guardiano, poi il Patriarca dei Greci, appresso il Vescovo degli Armeni; e con questo si stabilisce in quei luoghi fra barbari et heretici la dignità e precedenza della Romana Chiesa" (G. Golubovich, Biblioteca Bio-bibliografica, NS., VI, Quaracchi 1929, 54).

*51 - The Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land did not forget to recall the right of using the Major Altar on certain occasions of the year in the "Mémorial" under the title Les Lieux Saints which was presented at the Peace Conference in either the 1919 or 1922 edition. Paragraph 13, speaking of the Church of Bethlehem, says: "Les religieux Latins... maîtres de l'église, ils pouvait... faire toutes les cérémonies de leur culte sur le maître-autel de l'église".

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