Holy Sepulchre Basilica, perhaps Christianity’s most important shrine, was completed in 335 by St. Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine. An early Christian shrine had been replaced with a pagan temple in 135.
After the Crusaders seized Jerusalem in 1099, they built the current church, which also includes Mount Calvary. The Muslims regained control of Jerusalem in 1187. Franciscans from Aragon began serving here in 1323. Eleven years later, King Robert and Queen Sanchia of Naples obtained permission from the sultan of Egypt for the friars to live on an upper floor and minister in the basilica. Pope Clement VI appointed the Friars Minor in 1342 as the Latin (Western) Church’s clergy there. Representatives from the Greek Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox Church also minister there; a shared-use agreement dates to 1852.
In late May, Pope Francis will meet Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople here, to mark the 50th anniversary of the kiss of peace exchanged between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras. In the chapel enclosing Christ’s tomb, the friars coordinate Masses at specified hours. They hear confessions in many languages and have a chapel for pilgrims.
Photo: Jorge Láscar/Wikimedia Commons