The Holy Sepulchre Basilica, the most sacred site for Christians, is built over the place of crucifixion and burial of Jesus Christ. Since the time of Saladin (12th century), a rather peculiar "opening" ceremony takes place there each day at dawn. It involves, in turn, representatives from the three major Christian communities in Jerusalem: the Greek Orthodox, the Franciscans and the Armenians.
Each of the above mentioned communities has a residence inside the church. One of the monks who has spent the night "locked up" inside the basilica leaves to go and wake up the person who will actually open up the door for him. The opening ceremony commences when this man slides a ladder through a small door in the church. The ladder is then used to reach the two bolts locking the door, which he finally opens. In the evening the same operation is performed in reverse. Who is the chosen one who keeps the keys and actually opens the door?
This is a most surprising fact!
It is a Muslim, a member of the Nusseibe family. Generation after generation, this family has been the keeper of the key to the Basilica. Since 1187 the Nusseibes have been the only people allowed to open the Basilica. For centuries they would actually unlock the door only when the Christians had paid them eighty Golden Francs as a "personal entry tax". If the Christians did not have enough money to pay the tax, the Basilica was kept closed. This tax was abolished in 1831.
Click on the Key