The Peaceful Liberation of the Holy Places in the XIV Century

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

1 - The Grotto and Basilica of Nativity

1333: Roger Garin, in the name of the Sovereigns of Naples, Robert of Anjou and Sancha of Maiorca, began transactions for the redemption of the Holy Places with En-Naser Muhammad, Sultan of Egypt.
1334: Probable date of the entrance of the Franciscans (Franks, Latins) into the two Sanctuaries of the Church of the Tomb of the Madonna at Jerusalem and of the Nativity at Bethlehem. The Franciscans, who were the first and principal contracting party with the Sultan, received the Edicule of the Tomb of the Madonna and all the Grotto of the Nativity at Bethlehem. The Eastern Rites entered with the Franciscans.The Greeks (natives) obtained the main altars of the two churches; the other Eastern Rites chose or received places where each could erect their own altar by allotment.
1335: The Augustinian pilgrim Giacomo of Verona celebrated the ante-vigil of the Assumption at Bethlehem, singing the Mass in the Grotto of the Nativity, on the altar of the Manger. The Greeks (natives) officiated at the main altar of the Basilica. The other Eastern Rites officiated at their own altars in the apses and lateral naves of the basilica.
1336: The pilgrim Canon Ludolf of Sudheim wrote that on the night of the Nativity the various rites assembled there and everyone prepared their own altar. The Latins celebrated in the Grotto of the Nativity.
1347: The Franciscan pilgrim Niccolò of Poggibonsi said in his report that when he resided in Jerusalem the Franciscans kept the Basilica of the Nativity in their Custody. This had been given to them by the Sultan Muzaffar. In addition to the keys of the Grotto, they also had those of the Basilica, which were shared with the government door-keepers, to whom they paid an entrance tax to visit the Sanctuary. Niccolò of Poggibonsi indicated the places where the Eastern Rites officiated, adding that in the apse of the Grotto there was an altar upon which he said Mass. Below the altar was a star engraved in the marble floor.
1365-1370: In reaction to the raid of Peter I of Lusignan, King of Cyprus, on the city of Alexandria, the Sultan Al-Ashraf Shaaban persecuted all the Christians of Palestine and Syria. He imprisoned sixteen Holy Land Franciscans in Damascus. They died during the five years of their incarceration.
1384: The Italian pilgrim Frescobaldi noted that the Church of the Nativity was in the control of the Franciscans. There were Eastern Rite chapels in the same church.
1389: The Russian pilgrim Ignatius of Smolensk confirmed that the Franks officiated at the Manger, the Greeks (natives) over the Grotto of the Nativity (Presbytery), and that the Franciscans had control of the Church of the Nativity. These same Franciscans lived in the convent to the left of the Basilica which was where he found the House (Chapel) of St. Joseph.
1393: Gérard Chauvet asked the Princes of Europe to help him in the restoration of the Basilica of the Nativity.
1397-1398: The same Gerard Chauvet obtained permission from Sultan En-Naser Ed-Din Faraj to repair the Basilica of the Nativity.
1419-1421: The Russian Deacon Zosimus said that the Grotto of the Nativity was in the custody of a Frankish priest.
1422: The pilgrim John Poloner observed that the slabs of marble of the pavement and the walls of the Basilica had been carried away by the Saracens.
1447-1452: Restoration of the Basilica of Bethlehem was carried out at the expense of Philip, Duke of Burgundy.
1461: The French pilgrim Louis de Rochechouart confirmed that the picture (in mosaic) in the apse of the Grotto is still complete, although darkened. He added that the Franciscans were the custodians of the Basilica of the Nativity.
1480-1483: The Dominican pilgrim, Felix Fabri, wrote that the Latins had possession of the Grotto, the Greeks (natives) the choir of the Upper Church, and the Armenians had possession of the altar of the Magi (in the north apse). He observed that the church seemed profaned: in the choir, in the chapels and in the naves, there were no lamps. No sacred sign was to be seen. Only the Grotto was lit by lamps. He was the first to write that the veins of the marble which ornamented the west of the Manger had the image of a bearded man with a turban, clad in a long tunic; therefore, it was called the image of St. Jerome.
1480-1485: The Franciscan Francis Suriano confirmed that the Franciscans lived in the convent at Bethlehem and that Giovanni Tomacelli was able to bring wood from Venice and lead from England, sent by King Edward IV, all done with the permission of Sultan Al-Ashraf Sayf Ed-Din Qayetbay. The Pope conceded to Philip, Duke of Burgundy, the permission to send workmen to Jerusalem and also iron, timber and other things necessary for the repairs of the Basilica.
1507: The Polish Franciscan pilgrim Anselmus wrote that the choir of the Basilica was the property of the Greek (natives), while the place of the Nativity belonged to the Franciscans.
1516: The pilgrim A. Contarini said that in the veins of the marble of the Altar of Nativity in the apse of the Grotto it was possible to see the image of St. Simeon the Old Man, with the Baby Jesus in his arms.
1517: The Turks occupied Palestine and Egypt. This began a new and very sad chapter of history for the Holy Places and for the Franciscans, a period which lasted until 1917.

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