Rights to the land and the sanctuary

Star Under the altar of the Nativity

The sanctuary, which was not mentioned by Clement VI in either of his bulls in 1342, was granted to the Franciscans by Sultan al-Muzaffar Hajji in 1346-1347, as reported to us by the Franciscan chronicler Niccolò da Poggibonsi.

There is no official firman (decree) making reference to this grant, but it is confirmed by a citation in a firman issued in 1427 by Sultan Barsbay. It was very likely Peter IV of Aragon who made the request for the sanctuary to the Egyptian sultan, as this was explicitly mentioned by him in two separate letters, one addressed to the sultan and the other to Pope Innocent VI.

In 1558 the Muslim and Christian leaders of Bethlehem declared that the burial places of the town belonged to the Franciscans, and in its Hogget (verdict) of May 1566 the tribunal in Jerusalem established that the entire sanctuary of the Nativity was owned by the Frankish religious who were entitled to manage the opening and closing of the church.

In 1619, the Grotto of the Nativity, whose ownership had unjustly been awarded to the Greeks, was restored to the Latins who in 1717 placed a new silver star at the site of the Nativity. With the proclamation of the Status Quo the question of property rights was clarified once and for all.

As a result of the continuous clashes between the various denominations, the Sublime Porte established that a soldier would be always on guard at the Altar of the Nativity. This decree has been maintained until the present time by the various governing authorities.

Stages of Excavation

Bellarmino Bagatti

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