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The Crusader transformation (1099 - 1188 AD)


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"He who is immortal has suffered greatly for us"
(An epigraph from Djebel Riha in Syria)

The Crusaders conquered Jerusalem on July 15th 1099. It was their intention to give back to the Holy Sepulchre its splendor. Initially they only retouched the construction on the tomb of Jesus. In 1119 the whole aedicula was completely rebuilt by the bolognese sculptor Renghiera Renghieri. It was in this reconstruction that the vestibule of the tomb was added (it had been previously removed in the Constantinian construction).

The Dome and the Belltower of the Church

The Dome and the Belltower of the Church
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The Crusaders conceived the idea of uniting the scattered sanctuaries, found at the site at their time, under one new monument in the form of a cross. The Holy Sepulchre was repaired and an aedicula placed over it; the Rotunda was conserved in great part, furnished with a grand triumphal arch opening onto the new church erected on the former garden, used as a choir, which was contained within pillars and columns, provided with a tribune and surrounded by an ambulatory. The arms of the transept could not be of equal proportion in order to retain in the northern one the portico of the garden known as the "Arches of the Virgin", and in the southern one the Chapel at Golgotha. To the east the new building had to be limited by the little oratories, in memory of certain events of the Passion, which opened onto the ambulatory. From the ambulatory also descended a stairway to the Chapel of St. Helen and the Crypt of the Finding of the Cross. A romanic façade was opened on a Southern courtyard where at its north-west corner a five-storey belfry (48m) was built. At the north-east corner a separate monumental access to Calvary was built.

The Frankish Chapel - access to Calvary

The Frankish Chapel - access to Calvary
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The Crusader's belltower
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The Crusaders did their best to complete the existing mosaics and also add new ones on the walls. Obviously all this new Crusader decoration had Latin inscriptions.

Crusader Sculpture from the Holy Sepulchre

Crusader Sculpture from the Holy Sepulchre

Crusader Sculpture from the Holy Sepulchre

The new basilica was consecrated by bishop Fulcherius on July 15th 1149, the 50th anniversary from their conquest of Jerusalem as could be read in a Latin inscription engraved on the bronze main door: "This holy place has been sanctified by the blood of Christ, therefore our consecration adds nothing to its sanctity. However, the edifice which covers this holy place has been consecrated on the 15th of July by the Patriarch Fulcherius and by other dignitaries, the IVth year of his patriarchate and the 50th anniversary of the capture of the city, which at the time shone as pure gold. It was the year 1149 of the Birth of Christ".



© Text prepared by John Abela ofm based on articles and research by Virgilio Corbo ofm, Michele Piccirillo ofm and Eugenio Alliata ofm
Hi-Res pictures prepared by Michael Olteanu - Other pictures prepared by John Abela ofm and Michael Olteanu
B&W pictures courtesy of SBF-Jerusalem Archives - A joint project betweeen the Franciscans and Christusrex

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Created / Updated Wednesday, December 26, 2001 at 20:31:26 by John Abela ofm
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