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After several months, the restoration work that has given the Chapel of the Franks in Jerusalem a new face has been completed. The mass was presided over by the Custos of the Holy Land, Father Pizzaballa, in an intimate and warm setting, sealed the attainment of this goal.
The small loggia from the Crusader period, which in the past provided direct access to Calvary from the square, is clearly visible on the right of the facade of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher, the heart of the holy places in Jesus’ land.
This chapel was considered by tradition as “the third area of Calvary,” the one in which Mary and John were. It corresponds to the two areas in which Jesus was nailed to the cross and where the cross was raised. The name of the chapel—“of the Franks”— is tied to the property that belongs to the Franciscans, called “Franks” by the Easterners.
“With the re-opening, renovation and cleaning of the chapel, we do not necessarily want to recreate a “Frankish” character in the city. This is not our aim. But part of our goal is having respect for history and for a piece of history that belongs to us all, with a renewed outlook.”
A group of Italian restorers cleaned out the gilded wooden altar that dates back to the 18th century and the painting depicting Mary and John under the Cross. Young Palestinians from the Jericho Mosaic Center recovered the precious mosaics in the space above the window that overlooks the inside of the basilica. These are the surviving fragments of a mosaic that was much larger in past centuries and that probably covered the entire chapel. The marble columns and capitals were also beautifully renewed along with the polychromatic flooring.
The confined space of the chapel will allow participation at mass, by invitation by small groups, and only in the early hours of the morning for reasons pertaining to the Status Quo. Now that artistic heritage of this place has been recovered, it will be possible to enjoy its symbolic and spiritual value.
“We have to make this chapel into our vocation, to be between the Holy Sepulcher and the world. With our heart and gaze on the crucified Christ, but also with our eyes watching the world through this grate, through this filter that is the filter of Jesus’ cross.”