Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land - 06/03/2000 info: custodia@netvision.net.il

Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land
Rebuilding the Sanctuaries

The Sanctuaries of the Holy Land are like reliquaries housing the precious treasures of Christianity: places sanctified by Christ, the Virgin Mary, the Apostles and the many other participants in Salvation history. In the history of the Sanctuaries of the Holy Land there are four quite distinct periods of construction or of restoration, alternating with periods of destruction or abandonment.

1. The pre-Byzantine period Houses and premises related to the presence of Jesus are trasformed into places of worship. These places of worship seem to have been structurally inspired by the synagogue layout (= church-synagogue).

2. The Byzantine period (323-638) A flourishing period with Sanctuaries, churches, friaries and pilgrim houses cropping up all over Palestine, especially in the Jerusalem area.

3. The Crusader's Period (1099-1187) After 471 years of Arab-Moslem occupation in Palestine (638-1099) we find the Crusader period. The arrival of the Crusades meant also a feverish activity of rebuilding sanctuaries of grandeur embellished with the most refined artistic beauty. This activity touched all the major shrines of the Holy Land.

4. The Franciscan Period This can be divided into two distinct phases: one giong from the beginning of the XIV century up to 1920 (the islamic and Turkish reigns) and the other from 1920 to this day (since the British Mandate). During the first phase the Franciscans were always considered as "foreigners", subjects or protected by foreign powers often hostile to the Ottoman Empire. This created difficulties even to obtain and bring to the Holy Land the necessary means for survival. During this phase even the buildings were sombre, small and many a time built in a hurry to avoid losing the obtained permissions. After the first World War (1915-18) and the fall of the Turkish Empire, the situation changed completely and the Custody of the Holy Land undertook an extensive activity to rebuild the sanctuaries. Initially the architects followed the plans of preceeding structures for their new projects. Such is the case at Emmaus and the Nutrition Sanctuary in Nazareth. But this tendency gave way to a new architectural dimension: the sanctuaries where to reflect the "moods" and the "particular mysteries" they represented and protect the unearthed archaeological treasures witness to the uninterrupted devotion to the site by the Christians of the Holy Land. Here enters a figure who dedicated all his life and wit to the building of the new sanctuaries of the Holy Land - Architect Antonio Barluzzi (Tabor, Gethsemane, Bethany, Shepherds' Field, Visitation - Ein Kerem, Dominus Flevit, Beatitutes). The last two sanctuaries built by the Custody reflect also an accentuated modern line of structures (Nazareth and Capharnaum).

Chronology