A site for a Christian holy site

The site, www.holysepulchre.custodia.org, is the first in a series about Roman Catholic sites across the Holy Land.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre 311 (photo credit: ITRAVELJERUSALEM TEAM)
Church of the Holy Sepulchre 311
In a case of the 21st century meeting the first, the Jerusalembased Custody of the Holy Land launched its website March 12 for the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The site, www.holysepulchre.custodia.org, is the first in a series about Roman Catholic shrines, libraries, guest houses and other properties across the Holy Land under development by the Franciscan Order, explains Father Silvio De La Fuente.
“We are working on many other websites including Capernaum, the Church of Joseph and the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, Gethsemane here in Jerusalem and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem,” all of which will be launched in August, he says. “We have many more under planning.”
All the Franciscan websites will be linked to the order’s homepage, www.custodia.org, and share a common design template, notes De La Fuente. Since being elected custodial secretary in 2010, the friar has made computerized outreach – including applications for iPad and iPhones – a priority.
Directing teams of web designers, archeologists and friars in Jerusalem, San Marino, Bologna, Verona and elsewhere in Italy, De La Fuente notes it took six months to design the Holy Sepulchre website. Constructed in Italian, it was then translated into English, French and Spanish. He declines to discuss the budget but notes the designers all worked pro bono or at cost.
The site, with its 3D representations, allows visitors to take a virtual tour of the Holy Sepulchre, entering each room of the church and studying its architecture and iconography. Visitors will also be able to participate in Easter 2012 festivities in real time through the videos produced by the Franciscan Media Center.
The website also documents the complex history of the shrine from when it was the Roman execution grounds known as Skull Hill (Golgotha in Aramaic and Calvary in Latin) until the present. Today’s church is the holiest place in the world for Christianity, marking the place where Jesus was crucified and resurrected. The building is an amalgam of chapels, some dating back nine centuries to the Crusaders, uneasily shared by six denominations under the 1852 Status Quo Nunc agreement promulgated by Ottoman Sultan Abdulmecit, which froze the conditions existing at the moment of the edict.
“The first thing to understand was what kind of site people need – one directed both to pilgrims and the scientific community. All the websites have two levels of information. But it’s only a website and not a scholarly book,” De La Fuente adds. “We’re constantly thinking of how to improve the interface. You always want to do it better.”
“We’re very happy to give this [website] to all Christianity. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is not just stones but a living place where people can really touch Jesus, and go deeper into their faith. That is the most important thing.”
“I invite people to come and see the website [of the Holy Sepulchre], and the websites we’re creating soon. And of course to see the Holy Land,” says De La Fuente.
Dressed in a friar’s habit, the Franciscan monk incongruously sits behind a desk with two wide-screen computer monitors. As general secretary of the Custody, the friar has a number of senior administrative roles including liaison with other Christian denominations, and ensuring the implementation of the decisions made by the order’s Discretory governing council. Fluent in Spanish, Italian, English and Arabic, and with a working knowledge of Hebrew and French, De La Fuente also edits the orders monthly internal magazine Frati della Corda.
Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1977, De La Fuente says he received his first computer – a Commodore 64 – when he was six years old. After earning a BA in economics at l’Universita de Buenos Aires, he enrolled at the Studium Theologicum Jerosolymitanum in the Franciscan St. Savior compound in the Old City’s Christian Quarter in 2002. There he received ordination as a priest in 2009.
He continues to live in San Salvatore, referring to the compound by its Italian name, favored by the community of monks who reside and work there.