The Peaceful Liberation of the Holy Places in the XIV Century

II - 9 Contemporary documents of the Negotiations of 1333

"If we must lament (regretfully) the loss of the official acts, that is to say, the written agreements between the two courts of Naples and Cairo for the transfer of the Holy Places, it is beyond doubt that similar documents had been issued and copies of these documents must have existed in the archives of the House of Anjou as also in the archives of Mt. Sion in Jerusalem."(*59)
Such acts or agreements still existed in 1427 according to the testimony of the Anonymous German Franciscan whose manuscript is conserved in the Vatican Library. It was published by Fathers Marcellino of Civezza and Teofilo Domenichelli in 1894. The German Franciscan "expressly and repeatedly made mention of pacts and agreements between the Sultan and King Robert; he remembered them as documents distinct from the Clementine Bulls." Unfortunately the sacks of the city, the continual disturbances against the Friars of the Cenacle (where the archives were preserved), and the imprisonments of the Friars in Cairo and Damascus are all reasons which caused the loss of these precious documents.(*60)
King Robert and Queen Sancha of Naples knew well the human greed of some of their rivals. After receiving the official acts from Cairo and wishing to calm the conscience of the Friars concerning their vow of poverty (which was a most controversial topic in the Fourteenth Century), the King and Queen had the fortunate idea of asking the Pope to confirm their rights over the Four Sanctuaries in the Holy Land. Pope Clement VI, on November 21, 1342, scarcely nine years after the start of the negotiations, gladly issued two Bulls in Avignon. They were similar in content. These two Bulls, in past centuries as well as today, "are the fundamental basis of the rights of the Catholic Church for its claim over the places of Palestine in general and over the Cenacle in particular."(*61)
In these Bulls the Pope thanked the Lord for the zeal of faith and devotion of the King and Queen of Naples who had been used for the glory of God and the honor the Church in the redemption of the Holy Sepulchre, the Cenacle, and the other Holy Places overseas. And this was "not without heavy expenses and protracted transactions" with the Sultan of Cairo. He congratulated Queen Sancha on the construction of a convent for twelve Franciscan Friars who served in the Cenacle and in the Holy Sepulchre.
These two Bulls are documents of binding authenticity and value. The two largest Sanctuaries, the Cenacle and the Holy Sepulchre, are directly mentioned in them. The other two Sanctuaries are indirectly noted. They are two documents of great authority and are important for history and for law: a new law, acquired on the foundation of the newly established "right" of the dominant State and subsequently recognized by the Western Christian nations.(*62) Included in this law are the four Holy Places which the "Franks or Latins" legitimately entered in 1333.
The Cenacle was purchased with a special right of acquisition made by a legal contract between the Rulers of Naples and the Sultan of Egypt. It is an exclusive possession and thus it is distinct from the other three Sanctuaries. In these other Sanctuaries the Latins enjoy the privilege of preeminence but their rights are limited by the participation of the Eastern Rites and by the presence of government doorkeepers.
This legal, historical, and perpetual possession was acquired by the Franks. It is the result of the pacts agreed upon by the two contracting parties. They are pacts which constitute an indisputable right and in which the granting authority retained responsibility regarding any violations at any time that they might occur. Because of this, later infractions have never been able to invalidate their value. Even today every violation requires a restoration because each violation is an intolerable injustice and affront to the contracting Christian government.(*63)
Robert and Sancha of Naples did not redeem the four Sanctuaries for the private use of their dynasty but for the public use of the Catholic Church, especially that group of Catholic nations which had enjoyed, more or less, the "ius patronatus" over the Holy Places. Unfortunately in 1630 irresponsible forces attempted to exchange justice for tyranny and abuse.
A second document is a chronicle entitled Flores Temporum by a German Franciscan named Martinus. He wrote at the end of 1290. His work was continued by a confrère, Ermannus, at the end of 1346. Ermannus only records the event of the entrance of the Franciscans into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.(*64)
The third document is a chronicle compiled around 1348 by Johannes of Winterthur (Latinized as Vitoduranus). He mentions the presence of twelve Franciscan Friars in the Holy Sepulchre. According to another pilgrim friar, four at a time resided in the Holy Sepulchre while the others lived beside the Cenacle.(*65)
A fourth contemporary document, small but nonetheless important, is the above-mentioned "Chronicle of the 24 Minister Generals". It was written around 1360. In it we read that a group of Franciscan missionaries who were destined for Armenia (1332-1333) departed together with Roger Garin. Garin stopped in Egypt to obtain the Cenacle and the residence of the Franciscan Friars in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre from the Sultan. This brief notice dwells more on the conditions of the Franciscans in 1360 than on the negotiations of 1333.(*66)
At first these last three documents appear as a distant echo, always brief and weak. In fact, they are an incomplete, but discreet, allusion to an important event.
Other documents concerning these issues are the acts of the purchase of the lands adjoining the Cenacle. The first of these was written on May 15, 1335. This could very well indicate the end of the negotiations at Cairo. The second document was produced in that same year. The third, fourth, fifth and sixth documents date from 1337. The seventh document is from 1346 and the eighth is from 1348. The ninth and final document was written in 1357. These acts have a legal value which confirms the inalienable right "to the Cenacle and adjoining places, declared by the local Moslem authority itself as a pious and perpetual legacy to "Brothers of the Cord"".(*67)


*59 - Golubovich, Biblioteca Bio-bibliografica, t. IV, 41-42.

*60 - In the Cronache di Terra Santa (1636) Verniero speaks about the imprisonment of the Franciscan Friars (1537-1540) which lasted 38 months: "Meanwhile there were imprisoned the Franciscan Brothers, with the loss of many documents, vestments, and ecclesiastical vessels, and their very lives" (Golubovich, Biblioteca Bio-bibliografica, NS, VI, 111, 141, 143-144).
The Franciscan chronicler Mark of Lisbon ( 1591) : "who fixed in 1333 the acquisition of the Holy Places, which is referred to in the Bulls of Clement VI and of other Pontiffs and Sovereigns, laments that there is not in the documents or the memoirs of the Archives of the Holy Land" something which could better clarify this historical point.

*61 - The texts of the two Bulls are reported by Golubovich, Biblioteca Bio-bibliografica, IV, 52-56.

*62 - Golubovich, Biblioteca Bio-bibliografica, IV, 1-4, 196-198.

*63 - These incredible violations were committed by the Mameluke Government.These authorities acted against the Cenacle after provocation by some rabbi and by the Moslem religious leader who lived near the convent of the Friars on Mt. Sion. The Georgians acted against the Franciscan interests at Calvary. Many times in later history other violations were committed by the Turkish Government who followed the example of the Mamelukes. They were corrupted by bribes and accepted false documents presented by the Greeks, the Georgians, the Armenians, and other Orthodox.

*64 - Golubovich, Biblioteca Bio-bibliografica, IV, 11-12.

*65 - Golubovich, Biblioteca Bio-bibliografica, IV, 12.

*66 - Golubovich, Biblioteca Bio-bibliografica, IV, 9-10; note 45.

*67 - Golubovich, Biblioteca Bio-bibliografica, IV, 59 and following.

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