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Church of All Nations and Gardens of Gethsemane

    "And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray" (Matthew, XXVI 36).

The Church of All Nations is set at the bottom of the slope of < href= “/mount_of_olives.html”> Mount of Olivesopposite the Temple Mount. Also referred to as the Basilica of the Agony, it is built on the site of the Garden of Gethsemane. Here, according to scripture, Jesus spent his last night in prayer. Just hours before his crucifixion, Christ prayed to the Father and for the sins of the world. He was so impassioned, the Gospel explains that his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

The Garden of Gethsemane is from the Hebrew words Gat Shemen, meaning olive vat. Here, in the days of Christ, the area was covered with gnarled and twisted olive trees. Today there are still many ancient trees that are from 500 to 2,000 years old.

This site has been venerated by pilgrims for almost 2,000 years. One of the earliest accounts is by the anonymous ‘Pilgrim of Bordeaux,’ who visited the site in 333 AD. In the fourth century, a Byzantine basilica stood here. And in the 12th century, the Crusaders built a chapel here which was later abandoned. The present church was designed by Antonio Barluzzi and was built from 1919-1924.

It is called Church of All Nations because many countries gave money to fund its construction. And if one looks up at the glass ceiling, symbols of all these countries are set in separate domes.

The Church features beautiful mosaic façade which rises above pillars and great arches. Inside, mosaics and sculptures portray the last days in the life of Jesus Christ, including the kiss of death. The most important spot in the church is the presbytery. In front of the high altar is a piece of rock surrounded by a wrought iron crown of thorns. This is the Rock of Agony, the place where Jesus was supposed to have spent the night in prayer.

In the bible we are told that after his last night, Christ was betrayed by his disciple Judas here in the Garden of Gethsemane(Mark 14:32-43). Today the peaceful garden is maintained by the Franciscans. With its ancient olive trees that witnessed many centuries gone by, this is an ideal place for prayer and reflection upon the Passion of Christ.


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