Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Fathers of the Holy Sepulchre

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(Guardians)

The Fathers of the Holy Sepulchre are the six or seven Franciscan Fathers, who with as many lay brothers keep watch over the Holy Sepulchre and the sanctuaries of the basilica. To the right of the Sacred Tomb in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre is the chapel of St. Mary Magdalen, which opens into the tenth-century church of the Apparition of Christ to His Blessed Mother, served by the Franciscan Fathers and containing their choir. Just off this chapel is the small damp monastery which since the thirteenth century has been the abode of the Fathers of the Holy Sepulchre, the band chosen every three months from the community of St. Saviour, to lead the difficult confined life which, however, always finds eager volunteers. The convent being accessible only from the basilica, which is in charge of Mohammedan guards, the keys which lock the basilica shut the friars off from the outer world, their only means of communication being the aperture in the main portal, through which they receive provisions from St. Saviour's. Emperor Francis Joseph, in 1869, on his way to the opening of the Suez Canal visited the holy places, and besides conferring numerous benefactions on St. Saviour's, induced the Turks to remove the stable which obstructed the light and air of the little monastery of the Holy Sepulchre, and to permit the erection of a bell-tower, from which on 25 September, 1875, the bells pealed forth, for the first time in seven hundred years summoning the faithful to worship in the church of the Holy Sepulchre. Every afternoon the Fathers conduct a pilgrimage to the sanctuaries of the basilica, and at midnight, while chanting their Office, they go in procession to the tomb of the Saviour, where they intone the Benedictus. The superiors must be alternately Italian, French, and Spanish. The rest of the community of St. Saviour's, which generally numbers about twenty-five Fathers and fifty-five lay brothers, are engaged in the various activities of the convent, which has within the monastic enclosure, besides the church of St. Saviour (the Latin parish church of Jerusalem), an orphanage, a parish school for boys, a printing office, carpenter's and ironmonger's shops, a mill run by steam, and the largest library in Palestine.

MEISTERMANN, New Guide to the Holy Land (tr. London, 1907); HOLZAMMER in Kirchenlex., s. v. Grab, Das heilige; HEIMBUCHER, Orden und Kongregationen, II (Paderborn, 1907), 247.

F. M. RUDGE