The Peaceful Liberation of the Holy Places in the XIV Century

III - Franciscan Chronology of the Four Shrines (1333 - 1517)

3 - The Church of the Holy Sepulchre

1308: The Sultan En-Naser Muhammad permitted the Georgians to celebrate on Calvary and probably in that year allowed two of them to stay closed in at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
1322: The Franciscan pilgrim, Simon de Simeonis (Fitzsimons) and his confrère Hugh found two Georgian Religious in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. James II of Aragon obtained permission from the Sultan En-Naser for twelve Dominican Religious to live in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. They were to be guardians of this Holy Place in which they were enclosed and to conduct liturgical services.
1323-1324: Twelve Dominican Friars arrived in Jerusalem, but after one year of harsh experience they left the Holy Land and returned to their own country (1324).
1327: In this year James II, King of Aragon, asked the Sultan of Egypt that "the Religious Friars Minor of his kingdom should have some devout place in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre". The Sultan agreed again to this request, but due to the death of the King of Aragon, the concession was not put into effect.
1333: In the name of the Rulers of Naples, Roger Garin of the Province of Aquitaine began transactions for the return of the Frankish clergy to the Holy City to protect the Holy Places and to officiate at liturgies conducted in them. The transactions were restricted to four Sanctuaries: The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the Church of the Tomb of the Madonna, the Cenacle, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
1335: "After long transactions and great cost" the results were not equal to the restitutions of 1229 and 1241. Only the Cenacle was conceded with exclusive rights. In the other three Sanctuaries the handover was limited to the most sacred parts: namely, to the Grotto of the Nativity and of the Church of the Madonna. Regarding the Edicule of the Holy Sepulchre, held at that time by the Georgians, a promise was made to hand it over at a more opportune time in the future. The freedom of the Franks in the Sanctuaries was complicated by two factors: the presence of all the Eastern Rite churches and the presence of the government doorkeepers, who always kept the doors closed. They were given the right of pre-eminence and precedence over the Eastern Rites. In the Church of the Holy Sepulchre they were given the southern part of Calvary, the Grotto of the Holy Cross, and the Chapel of the Magdalen, with the space in front of it.
In this same year the Augustinian pilgrim Giacomo of Verona arrived in Jerusalem. He found three Georgian Religious in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre who had keys to the Edicule of the Holy Sepulchre. They made the pilgrims pay "one Venetian gold coin" to enter and pray at the Holy Sepulchre. He celebrated mass at the Cenacle, at the Grotto of the Nativity, and at the Tomb of the Madonna. He observed that the Eastern clergy had their own altars for liturgies.
1336: The German pilgrim Canon Ludolf of Sudheim came to Jerusalem and said that the Latin deacons sang the Gospel of St. Mark where Jesus appeared to St. Mary Magdalen and that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was open free of charge to all, both clergy and faithful, from Good Friday until Easter Monday and on the Vigil and Feast of the Finding of the Holy Cross. He also noted that every Eastern Rite had its own altar.
1342: Two Bulls of Pope Clement VI ratified the agreement stipulated between the Rulers of Naples and the Sultan of Cairo. The Pope mentions the two Sanctuaries which were involved in the long and costly transactions, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Cenacle.
1345: According to the Anonymous English pilgrim, four Latin Religious and four Georgians met the pilgrims at the door of the church, singing as they went up to the Edicule of the Holy Sepulchre. Afterwards, they organized a procession through the interior of the church, stopping at each of the Holy Places.
1347: The Franciscan pilgrim Niccolò of Poggibonsi observed that the keys of the Edicule of the Holy Sepulchre were in the hands of the Moslem custodians, that the Eastern Rites had different fixed altars, and that all the altars, including those of the Latins, added up to twenty. He also observed that the Armenians and not the Georgians were now present in the north part of Calvary.
1365: The Franciscans of the Holy Sepulchre, together with those of the Cenacle and of Bethlehem, were taken prisoner to Damascus because Peter I, King of Cyprus, had sacked Alexandria in Egypt. The persecution was directed against all the Christians, both Western and Eastern. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was reopened three months after the signing of peace, November or December of 1370.
1370: New Franciscans arrived from Europe to replace their dead confrères or those who were still alive but in prison.
1375: Pope Gregory XI (1370-1378), at the suggestion of certain religious of some Religious Institute, assigned the south part of Calvary, then under the Custody of the Franciscans, to King Charles III of France. He gave him the privilege of stationing there four secular or regular priests. This disposition was not able to be carried out.
1377: The first Statutes of the Custody of the Holy Land record that the friars had asked the Sultan at Cairo for permission for some of them to be allowed to live as sentinels beside the Holy Sepulchre and that one of them would be the Superior (art. 3.). It was also established that anybody, friar or pilgrim, who broke or took a piece of stone from the columns of the Sepulchre of the Lord or from any other Holy Place, would be severely reprimanded (art. 2).
1384: The Italian pilgrim Frescobaldi found two Franciscans in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. These two recited the Divine Office on marble seats at the entrance of the Edicule. He added that there were Armenians present below Calvary.
1396: The Sultan Zaher Barquq approved with a firman the right of the Latins to hold the half of Calvary that was contested by the Georgians. With a second firman he ordered the Greeks to return the dwelling places belonging to the Latins.
1397: Since the Franciscans had obtained responsibility for all the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the past (previous to 1392), they asked the Sultan of Cairo, Zaher Barquq for a decree permitting them to repair certain fallen parts of the church (October 4, 1397).
1400: According to the testimony of the Russian pilgrim Grethenios, the Franciscans now had the keys to the Edicule of the Holy Sepulchre. Thus, in the following centuries, pilgrims were able to visit without paying. Grethenios found the Latins and Armenians on Calvary. He also indicated where the other Eastern Rites were situated there. He mentioned that the government allowed only six religious, one from each rite, to remain enclosed within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. These were: one Greek (native), one Iberian (Georgian), one Latin, one Armenian, one Jacobite, and one Abyssinian.
1427: The Sultan of Cairo, Sayf ed-Din Barsbay, confirmed by decree that the Franciscans were in possession of the southern part of Calvary.
1435: Thomas of Montefalco replaced a movable wooden altar with a new marble altar on the Tomb of the Lord. He covered the interior or the same Tomb with marble.
1437: Pope Eugene IV, with the Bull "Licet", gave some indulgences for the restoration project of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
1475: The Georgians took back the north part of Calvary from the Armenians. For more than a century they had also continually tried to take the south part from the Latins. Perhaps that action depended on the fact that they had not understood the difference between the benevolent concession given to their kings and the negotiated agreements between the Rulers of Naples and the Sultan of Cairo.
1478: John Tomacelli, Guardian of Mount Sion, made restorations to the tribune and the dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
1493: The Tribunal of Jerusalem declared that Calvary was the property of the Latins. Afterwards a bilateral accord was made between the Latins and the Georgians.
1502: The Guardian of Mount Sion, Moor of St. Bernadine, opened and restored the interior of the Holy Sepulchre.
1506: The government of Jerusalem confirmed anew that half of Calvary belonged to the Latins.
1509: A momentary peace was declared by the Georgians with the Latins on the question of Calvary. They allowed the Latins to use their stairway to ascend to Calvary and to have a key to the room below.
1510-1512: The Georgians, giving little value to the agreement, profited from the imprisonment of the Latins in Cairo and occupied the south part of Calvary. They also prevented the use of their stairway.
1514: Francis Suriano obtained restitution of the south part of Calvary and the use of the stairs from the Sultan in Cairo.
1516: Privately and in disguise, the Turkish Sultan Selim I, visited the two principal mosques of Jerusalem for devotions on December 30th. Moved by curiosity, he also visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, again incognito. Later he left for Gaza. From there he went to occupy Egypt.
Thus ended the two hundred and sixty-six years of the rule of the Mameluke Sultans (1250-1516), a period of relative tranquillity.
From 1517 until 1917 the history of the Holy Places is a history of violence against the Latins, of the usurpation of the Holy Places, of the enormous sums of money spent to satiate the greed of the Turkish government which commercialized justice according to their own pleasure. The Georgians and the Arab Clergy of the Greek Rite were replaced by Hellenic-Greek monks. These monks used their Turkish citizenship, the Sultans and Greek Ministers to take away Sanctuaries from the Latins by means of accusations and violence.

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