Franciscan Terra Sancta Church: Remember the day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, when he said to me, “Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.” (Deuteronomy 4:10)
Visits to the site may be arranged in advance through the Visitors Center by calling 04-6519813.
Franciscan Terra Sancta Church Description:
Franciscan Terra Sancta Church lies along the road next to the eastern sea wall of Acre, also known as Akko. In typical 17th century Gothic architecture, the church has the symbol of two arms crossing. One arm belongs to Jesus, and the other arm belongs to Saint Francis of Assisi. It has a pointed pyramidal Gothic spire, in its dull red paint, is set apart from the rest of the churches in the Acre.
A Crusader Cross, or Jerusalem Cross, which consists of one large central cross and four crosses (one at each corner). It is located underneath the crossed arms symbol, to represent the four points on a compass. At this time, the world was still thought to be flat. The crossed arms and the Crusader Cross are both important symbols to the Franciscan Order. Both the hands on the crossed arms have holes in them. The hole in Jesus’ hand represents the nails piercings from his crucifixion. The hole in the hand representing Saint Francis depicts his stigmata (sympathetic blood spots appearing on the palm of a devotee’s hand). Saint Francis is said to have miraculously had stigmata marks on his hands for two solid years before his death.
Franciscan Terra Sancta Church History:
The Franciscan Terra Sancta Church is Roman Catholic. Its name is Arabic (Deir al-Latin) for “the Latin Monastery.” Acre’s first Franciscan monastery was established in 1217 by Father Elia Da Cortona. Saint Francis of Assisi visited two years later in 1219 for a year, leaving in 1220.
The Franciscan Terra Sancta Church, along with most of the churches in Acre, was destroyed by the Mamluks during the invasion in the 13th century. Near the middle of the 16th century, the Franciscan order acquired a few rooms close to the Khan al-Faranj, which is a merchants’ courtyard, for use by their pilgrims.
In the early 1600s, Fakhr al-Din the second granted the Franciscan order permission to build its own church and hostel for travelers in Acre. The Franciscan monks continued to use the original Terra Sancta as a private, Catholic seminary. The Franciscan Terra Sancta Church is now adjacent to the northern wall of the Khan al-Faranj.