Garden of Gethsemane


Garden of Gethsemane

After the Last Supper, the New Testament relates, Jesus and his disciples walked to the Mount of Olives, to a "place" called Gethsemane, where he was betrayed and arrested. Gethsemane derives from the Aramaic or Hebrew word for "oil press," referring to the precious olive that has always flourished here. The enormous, gnarled, and still-productive olive trees on the site may be older than Christianity itself, according to some botanists. They make a fine picture, but a fence prevents pilgrims from taking home sprigs as a more tangible souvenir.

The Church of All Nations, with its brilliantly colorful, landmark mosaic facade, was completed in 1924 on the scanty remains of its Byzantine predecessor. The prolific architect, Antonio Barluzzi, filled the church's interior domes with mosaic symbols of the Catholic communities that contributed to its construction. The windows are glazed with translucent alabaster in somber browns and purples, creating a mystical feeling in the dim interior. At the altar is the so-called Rock of the Agony, where Jesus is said to have endured his Passion; this is the source of the older name of the church, the Basilica of the Agony.

A popular approach to Gethsemane is walking down the steep road from the top of the Mount of Olives—identified by pilgrims as the Palm Sunday Road—perhaps stopping in on the way at the Dominus Flevit church where, tradition has it, Jesus wept as he foretold the destruction of the city (Luke 19). The entrance to the well-tended garden at the foot of the hill is marked by a small platoon of vendors outside.


Ready for a trip of a lifetime to Jerusalem?