The Peaceful Liberation of the Holy Places in the XIV Century

II - 7 Motives for the Delay and the Reasons of the Financial Costs

From the two Bulls of Pope Clement VI (21 November 1342) we know that the negotiations were not easy to conduct and that the money paid for the Sanctuaries was no trifling amount. Likewise, the negotiations were not only for one Sanctuary, but for the four important ones. The dealings with the Sultan were not concerned with minor affairs of short duration as in previous years. This time they were negotiations for a perpetual and fixed accord. They were definitive negotiations for the exclusive and legal possession of the Cenacle (where there were no government doorkeepers or Eastern Clergy) and for the legal, albeit conditional, possession of the other three Sanctuaries.
The delay in arriving at a solution was probably caused by a number of factors:
1. the prudence of the Egyptian government (the Mameluke government at Cairo) in dealing for the first time out of their own political and Moslem traditions with the same Western Christians against whom they had been waging so many wars;
2. they were in the process of creating a new chapter of juridical history for the Holy Places whose intentions were favorable to Christians, some of whom still professed to be direct enemies of Egypt;
3. the Pope had not yet removed the prohibition (at least certain strong restrictions) of free trade with Egypt; and
4. the King of France was still promoting another Crusade.
Without doubt the negotiations also involved the tricky game of how much money to give to the Sultan and his ministers for the various Sanctuaries. The Sultan and his ministers (and this would prove to be even more of a problem later at Constantinople) demonstrated a kind of native weakness - an insatiable appetite for money, especially Christian money. These men were skilled at displaying their weakness on certain occasions when they wished to let their victims know that the matters under discussion were not solvable with empty hands.
Exactly what were the financial intrigues of the negotiations? How much money had the Sovereigns of Naples been forced to pay in order to obtain these four Sanctuaries? The only testimony available comes from two pilgrims. The first source was a German Franciscan Friar, "The Anonymous One" of 1427. Either he had been able to see the document of the agreements between the contracting parties in the archives of the Cenacle or he had heard about it from his confreres on Mt. Sion. He makes reference to the payment to the government of Cairo of twenty thousand ducats, certainly in gold.(*52)
The second source is a German Dominican Friar, "Fabri" who is noted for his voluminous travel diary written during his second voyage to the Holy Land in 1483. He wrote that King Robert had given thirty-two thousand gold ducats ("of the exact weight") for the four Sanctuaries. The discrepancy between the two sums is explained by the fact that the Franciscan brother was speaking only about the Church of the Holy Sepulchre while the Dominican spoke about all of the four Sanctuaries and their convents.(*53)
We pause here to respond to certain objections concerning these transactions. There were some people who were scandalized by the conduct of the Sovereigns of Naples. The sum, of course, was certainly enormous, indeed, fabulous for those times. However, it is actually a very small sum when one considers what the cost would be to maintain a Crusader army of thousands of soldiers and knights who would have been fighting a war whose outcome was uncertain. How can one calculate the inestimable value of human lives which would have been lost in warfare, not to mention the great personal sacrifices and sufferings of those who remained at home or the difficulties of the military traveling great distances over land and sea!
Secondly, the money paid by the Sovereigns of Naples was not given, as some maliciously claimed, with the intention of corrupting the government authorities in order to harm a third party. The historical fact is that for two hundred and sixty-two years (1071-1333) the Holy Places were considered by various Turkish, Arab, and Christian governments as objects of conquest. The victors could do with them as they pleased. In practice the government of En-Naser considered any property within its territory, whether public or private, as belonging to the government. In practice the Sultans have considered the Churches of the Holy Places national monuments and the Sultans reserved the right to entrust them to definite Christian religious institutes, but not without compensation. After the Sovereigns of Naples had obtained legal possession of the Holy Places they gave them over to the Franciscan Friars. These Friars had not taken anything from the clergy of the Eastern Rites or from any Western Religious Order which might have had previous custody of the same Sanctuaries. This can be confirmed by the juridical sentence publicly given in the Cathedral of Mantova on January 7, 1421 by Bishop Giovanni Delfin, the Patriarch of Grado. The decision was given at the conclusion of the juridical process initiated by Pope Martin V on July 9, 1420. The process resolved the dispute regarding the legality of the possession (custody and liturgy) of the four Sanctuaries by the Franciscan Friars.(*54)
The dispute had been raised by a certain Western Religious Order a long time before the Easterners (the Georgians) had started to contest the Franciscan possession with their false accusations and acts of violence.(*55)


*52 - The Anonymous German Franciscan of 1427 wrote about one hundred years after the transactions at Cairo. He mentions some interesting details about the history of the Holy Places: "(populata) est Iherusalem, civitas sancta... duobus consulibus, uno Ianuensi, altero Veneto, cum suis liberis et uxoribus, aliquibus peregrinis devotis, et pauperculis mulieribus diversarum nationum... necnon viris religiosis Ordinis Sancti Francisci nuncupatis Minoribus; diversarum nationum et linguarun,... laudibus divinis in sacris locus vacantibus... cum pactis et conventionibus per sancte memorie Christianissimum Regem Robertum cum Soldano hactenus factis, necnon et Serenissimam Principissam Aragonum, Reginam, qui Monten Syon et Dominicum Sepulcrum et Ecclesiam de Betleem, suis propriis, sumptibus et expensis a Soldano dictis Fratribus emerunt, prout plenius in Bullis apostolicis et pactionibus eorum contineturÓ (Golubovich, Biblioteca Bio-bibliografica, IV, 42).
"Post canonicos regulares habuerant eam (capellam Sancti Sepulchri) Georgiani, et eius claves tenebant; modo autem tenent eam Fratres Minores ad requestum Regine Sanxe, Aragonum, quae a soldano suis expensis XXii milibus redemit, et Fratribus gubernandum tradidit" (Golubovich, Biblioteca Bio-bibliografica, IV, 43). It is evident from this that the Franciscans asked the Governmen of Cairo for the Edicule and the keys of the Holy Sepulchre according to the Transactions of Cairo in 1333.

*53 - Golubovich, Biblioteca Bio-bibliografica, IV, 43.

*54 - Fortunately we have all the Acts of an extensive process, done by a notary and published in the Diarium Terrae Sanctae (1910, 10-24). It is an indirect testimony to the negotiations of 1333. It is a very important document for the civil authorities and the religious . Here are the principal words of the final sentence: "Nos Ioannes Patriarcha Gradensis, necnon Commissarius et Delegatus ac Executor Apostolicus antedictus, sedentes pro tribunali in maiori Ecclesia cathedrali Sancti Petri gloriosae civitatis Mantuae... definitive pronunciamus in hunc modum, videlicet: Quia comperimus ac Nobis plenissime constat, per dicta et attestationes supranominatorum testium legitimorum ac plenissima fide dignorum, quod Conventus et habitatio dictorum locorum Montis Sion, et Bethlehem, ac Sepulchri Dominici, necnon Ecclesiae Beatae Mariae Virginis in Valle Iosaphat, a dictis Fratribus Minoribus Ordinis Sancti Francisci, nedum per quinquaginta, sed per sexaginta annorum spatium, et ultra, et ab inde citra, et de praesenti, dicta loca... ad ipsos fratres et eorum Ordinem pleno iure spectare et pertinere... Nihilominus Fratribus ipsis oblationes et eleemosynas quascumque et proventus... per eorum procuratores seu commissarios... recipi et recolligi faciendi... eadem Auctoritate Apostolica, plenissimam licentiam elargimur... Anno Domini millesimo quadrigentesimo vigesimo primo... die Martis septimo mensis Ianuarii".
Apropos of the same process of Mantova (Italy) in 1778, Joseph Anthony of Milan made the following clarification: "Anno Christi 1420, moventur lites, Episcopus (Latin Titular of) Bethlehem praetendebat praesepium Domini; Canonici Regulares (of St. Augustine) Monten Sion (that is, the Cenacle); Benedictini Vallem Iosaphat (that is, the church of the Tomb of the Madonna) cum omnibus sanctuariis" (Le Missioni Francescane in Palestina ed in altre regioni della terra, 1896, 67).

*55 - The Georgians raised the question of the legality of the Franciscan possession of the southern part of Calvary. Suriano (1450 and after 1529) succeeded in regaining the second part of Calvary in 1514 which the Latins had lost during their imprisonment in Cairo from September 1510 to June 1512. This is his description of the Georgians of that period: "sono pessimi heretici... bella gente, ma superbissima... vivono in grande miseria; sono grandi bevitori di vino; gente ruza et villana. Sono nostri grandi e capitali nemici" ( F. Suriano, Treatise on the Holy Land, Jerusalem 1949, c. 27, p. 87 and note a; for the Calvary, p. 51, note a).
For the documents possessed by the Franciscans, cf. Golubovich, Biblioteca Bio-bibliografica, NS., IX, 110-112. The following declaration from 1605 suffices to explain the problem of Calvary: "l'interprete dei Georgiani ha dichiarato e confessato che la natione giorgiana non aveva titoli, né scritture autentiche, come il detto Calvario fusse di loro; ma ben aveva lettere e scritture concessegli dagli Prencipi e Re di Gierusalemme di possedere il detto Monte Calvario" (G. Golubovich, Biblioteca Bio-bibliografica, NS., X, Quaracchi 1936, 56). On the other hand, the Franciscans could show the juridical title which proved that the Holy Places were their possession. This was a title which was recognized and upheld by the Moslem Government.

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