On Saturday 15 July, in front of the Edicule of the empty tomb, the whole community of the Custody of the Holy Land of Jerusalem gathered together for the solemnity of the Dedication of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, the centre and the heart of the journey of every pilgrim to the Holy Land, in its 874th year since its consecration.
It was 15 July 1149 when the Crusaders, after decades of work and structural renovation, officially consecrated the new Basilica on the fiftieth anniversary of the conquest of Jerusalem.
Every year, this anniversary is remembered with a eucharistic celebration, which allows commemorating the many ups and downs that the Basilica has gone through, to reach the present day to bear witness to the death and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus in the historic place of these events.
The Crusader restyling
As soon as Jerusalem was reconquered in 1099, work on rebuilding the churches of the Holy Land was begun, starting with the Holy Sepulchre. In the place of the Constantinian complex made up of the Anastasis, Golgotha and the church of the Martyrion, a single building was created by the Crusaders. The Rotonda underwent a radical change: in its outer part, in the former courtyard of the Golgotha, a large presbytery (the present-day Greek Katholicon) was built. A group of chapels was placed around it, in which the individual aspects of the passion of Christ are recalled, still venerated today during the procession that is held every day in the Basilica. A transept built along the north-south axis incorporated the rock of Golgotha in the Basilica:
to give greater emphasis to Golgotha, the outer entrance with steps was created and an impressive bell tower was added.
The solemn eucharistic celebration
The Vicar of the Custody, fr. Ibrahim Faltas presided the celebration in place of the Custos of the Holy Land, fr. Francesco Patton, who is currently engaged in spiritual exercises at the Convent of Montefalco.
Many pilgrims, religious and faithful took part in the important anniversary of the Basilica which in these past few months has undergone major maintenance (you can find the last press release on the excavations completed here).
“We are in the most important place in the world which has attracted millions of pilgrims since its foundation, to worship an empty tomb,” fr. Ibrahim Faltas emphasized in his homily. “For more than 800 years, we the Franciscans have been in the Holy Land and we look after this holy place, with the constant presence of our friars and continuous prayer, trying to protect it because it represents the heart, the centre of Christianity of the whole world. Ours is an important task: to bear witness to the experience of a Church that lives in the capital of the Resurrection.”