A difficult period

In 1187 Jerusalem was reconquered by Saladin’s army and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was closed. Through an agreement with the emperor in Constantinople, a Greek hierarchy was reestablished.
Catholics, the so-called Franks or Latins, were readmitted during brief truces, only to be expelled again during the brutal Khwarezmian invasion in 1244, when Christians were attacked and slaughtered, and the church was once more seriously damaged.

The pilgrim Thietmar wrote in 1217 that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the site of the Passion “are without lamps and without honor and worship, and always closed except when opened to pilgrims on payment of fees.” Faced with protests from the Christian world, the sultan apologized to Pope Innocent IV, saying that the deva station had been carried out without his knowledge. And he guaranteed that, once the damages had been repaired, the keys would be entrusted to two Muslim famiglie who would open the Church whenever pilgrims arrived (a situation that continues to the present day).

It was a dark period, and unscrupulous officials mocked the wish of the Christian community to have access to the church. Pilgrims, after payment of a tax, were allowed to enter the church and were given a place and a special altar where for several days they could partecipate in ceremonies performed in their own language.
During this period, Christian colonies from Mesopotamia, Egypt, Armenia, Ethiopia, Syria, Greece and Georgia were established in Jerusalem. The Georgian Queen Tamara obtained an exemption from the tax for her community and permission for it to live in the church. Monks received food and offerings through openings that had been cut out of the door of the church.

The sanctuary gradually decayed. Western rulers, having lost the chance to recover the Holy Places by force of arms, entered into negotiations with the sultans to guarantee Catholic worship and aid to pilgrims. Success was achieved by the royal family of Naples, who in 1333 obtained the right of residence for the Latin community in Jerusalem.

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