The Liturgy of the Liberation Jerusalem

The Liturgy of the Liberation Jerusalem

By Bernard Sabella

Verso Gerusalemme (Atti del II Convegno internazionale nel IX Centenario della I Crociata [1099-1999] (Bari, 1999)

Introduction: Jerusalem fell on Friday, July 15, 1099, about midday. The victorious crusaders turned immediately to the Temple Mount, massacred there the soldiers and the civilians who tries – in vain – to find refuge in the two mosques; and while the forces of Raymond de Saint-Gilles were still storming the Citadel, the exalted victors rushed towards the Saint Sepulchre, the veritable aim and destination of the Crusade. The Iter Sepulchri culminated, appropriately, with the Office of the Resurrection celebrated on the Tomb of Christ. We can still perceive the intense emotions that were expressed in that celebration through the account of Raymond d’Aguillers, chaplain to Raymond de Saint-Gilles, a participant in and witness to this event: “Quomodo plaudebant exultantes et cantantes canticum novum Domino. Etenim mens eorum Deo victori et triumphanti vota laudum offerebat, quae explicare verbis non poterat. Nova dies, novum gaudium, nova et perpetua leticia, laboris atque devotionis consummatio, nova verba, nova cantica, ab universis exigebat”.

Raymond saw this victory as ”totius paganitatis exinanitio, christianitatis confirmatio, et fidei nostre renovatio”; he emphasised the profound significance of the conjunction of the Liberntion with the Divisio Apostolorum – the circle that opened with departure of the Apostles from Jerusalem closed with the return of the Crusaders vindicating their lawful heritage, “filii Apostolorum” coming back “[ad] urbem et patriam quam iuravit patribus”. And he insisted on the regular character of this celebration. It was not an isolated event, but a regular celebration which was held for seven days and it closed on its Octave (July 22) with the election of the first Latin King of Jerusalem: “Hec inquam dies celebris in omni seculo venturo”.

A new liturgy was thus instituted, Festivitas sancte Hierusalem, or Dies liberationis Hierusalem; but did it become indeed a regular feature of the liturgical year in Latin Jerusalem? The evidence of William of Tyre, about half a century later, is conclusive: “Ad majorem autem tanti facti memoriam ex communi decreto sancitum omnium voto susceptum et approbatum est, ut hic dies apud omnes solemnis et inter celebres celebrior perpetuo haberetur”.

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