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The First Usurpation against the Franciscans

The Franciscans were deprived of the Chapel of David in 1429. This was accomplished through an alliance between the moslems and the jews who on their part invested money with the intention of transforming this chapel into a Synagogue. The friars were thrown out but instead of becoming a synagogue, it remained in the hands of the Moslems. This usurpation led to reprisals against the jews in Europe and it was through the efforts of Venice that the local authorities returned the place to the Friars the next year.

Fr. James Delfin (1434-38) worked hard to restore the whole place. The Sultan Barsbay (1422-38) was favourable, and with the help of the Catholic powers and especially of Philip Duke of Burgundy (1419-67), Fr. Delfin had succeeded by 1438 in completing the repairs, and in building again the Chapel of the Holy Ghost.

one of the Firmans (decrees) confirming the rights of the Franciscans

In 1438, however, the Sultan Jaqmaq (1438-63) succeeded and he ordered the closing of all Christian churches and the removal of the Friars of Sion to Cairo. The Negus of Abyssinia protested and threatened to divert the Nile, which calmed the Sultan. Between 1439 and 1446 two firmans were obtained for the worthy reconstruction of the Chapel of the Holy Ghost. Duke Philip provided the money.

While the work was proceeding, an order came in 1462 to destroy all the newly constructed building and to retake the Chapel of David. The orders were carried out brutally, even the bones of the friars buried near the cenotaph of David were disinterred. The Chapel of David was definitely lost to the Friars. The Friars again rebuilt (1462) the Chapel of the Holy Ghost but it was again destroyed in 1468 by the Moslems.

Plaque affixed in the Cenacle decreeing the expulsion of the Franciscans

Having rebuilt this oratory, changing tactics, they approached the Sultan to recover the chapel of David, declaring that originally it was the Friars' cemetery, but some Moslems, imagining that the tomb of David was there, had placed there a mihrab-but the jurists of Islam had declared that a Moslem sanctuary could not be erected in a cemetery. The whole question was then examined on orders from the Sultan. The local authorities went on the spot, decided against the Friars, and on the following day, May 23, 1490, the Christians were forced to destroy the new constructions (the oratory of the Virgin and the Chapel of the Holy Ghost) and to hand the sites over to the Moslems.

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Created / Updated Thursday, March 24, 2005 at 11:47:40 by J. Abela, E. Alliata, E. Bermejo
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