Fathers of the Holy Sepulchre
The Fathers of the Holy Sepulchre, or Guardians of the Holy Sepulchre, were 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 that thirteenth century has been the abode of the Fathers of the Holy Sepulchre. The band is chosen every three months from the community of St. Saviour, to lead the difficult confined life. Nonetheless, they always finds eager volunteers. The convent is accessible only from the basilica, which under Ottoman rule was in charge of Muslim guards. The keys which lock the basilica shut the friars off from the outer world leaving their only means of communication as aperture in the main portal, through which they receive provisions from St. Saviour's. 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.
Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph, in 1869, on his way to the opening of the Suez Canal, visited the holy places. He conferred numerous benefactions on St. Saviour's, and induced the Turks to remove the stable which obstructed the light and air of the little monastery of the Holy Sepulchre. He also convinced the Turks to permit the erection of a bell-tower. On 25 September, 1875, these bells pealed forth, for the first time in seven hundred years summoning the faithful to worship in the church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The superiors must be alternately Italian, French, and Spanish. The rest of the community of St. Saviour's generally numbers about twenty-five Fathers and fifty-five lay brothers. They are engaged in the various activities of the convent, located within the monastic enclosure. In the early 20th century, besides the church of St. Saviour (the Latin parish church of Jerusalem) the convent included 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 Jerusalem.