Highlights of Gethsemane
The inside of the Church of All Nations in Gethsemane is beautifully crafted with numerous mosaics depicting scenes from the life of Jesus. Upon entering the little church one is noticing its quiet, though impressive atmosphere drawing the visitor to contemplation and meditation and some time out from a busy schedule.
“They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’” (Mark 14:23)
The Garden of Gethsemane, so central in Christian faith, is the place where Jesus went to pray with his disciples after the Last Supper the evening before his crucifixion.
It was in the Garden of Gethsemane on the foot of the Mount of Olives where Jesus was pointed out by Judas Iscariot to be arrested by the Roman soldiers and the Temple guards, who were sent by the chief priests and the teachers of the Law. Christ knew that his hour was near, so he decided to speak to God the Father. In his prayer he hoped that he would not need to suffer much, however he agreed to all God’s will. “Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36)
It is believed that the garden of Gethsemane belonged to one of Jesus’ followers, since it was a place where he often preached. “Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples.” (John 18:2) In Hebrew, Gethsemane was called gat shemanim, which means oli press or oil storage.
The Basilica of the Agony
Today, when entering the yard in front of the entrance to the Basilica of the Agony, we can notice couple of very old olive trees. Their ancient look create a feeling that they might have been the silent witnesses to Christ’s contemplation with God, followed by his capture and suffering. These are two millennia old olive trees from the time of Jesus and they surround the beautiful 20th century Church of All Nations with its numerous and impressive mosaics. The Olive trees gave the garden its name since Gethsemane (Gat Shmanim) means “olive press” in Hebrew, and they are the oldest olive trees in the area.
On that place, after Christianity became an official religion of the Roman Empire, a basilica was built in the 4th century. However, because the church was built in the Valley of Kidron, outside of the walls of Jerusalem, it was one of the first Christian constructions destroyed by Persians in 614.
In the times of Crusaders, stood there a church built by the local Christians, which was later enlarged and named St. Saviour. The monastery was unfortunately destroyed, so the mass services had to be held in the nearby Grotto of Gethsemane.
Present Basilica of the Agony, was committed to the famous Italian architect A. Barluzz by the Custody of the Holy Land. The basilica is also commonly called Church of All Nations, since many countries contributed its construction, which has begun in 1919. The sanctuary was consecrated in 1924. Inside the church can be seen remains of a floor mosaic of the Byzantine construction, and to the right of the sanctuary are visible the ruins of the Church of St. Saviour of the 12th century.
The Grotto of Gethsemane
Nearby Grotto of Gethsemane is considered to be the place of Christ’s often meetings with the disciples, and as well the one on the evening of his arrest. The interior of the cave is covered with the 12th century wall paintings, which now are almost effaced. The remains of the mosaic which used to decorate its floor can be also seen.
The grotto became a Franciscan property in 1392. In the years between 1956 and 1959, it underwent multiple restorations and at that time three altars were erected.
Gethsemane is at the foot of the Mount of Olives and at the edge of the Kidron Valley but is not easily accessible from these places by foot. Closed on Sundays. Easy access to garden and church.
On the Holy Thursday the door of the Basilica of the Agony opens at 9 pm for Holy Hour of prayer. From 10 pm till midnight there is time for private prayers in silence. For the detailed schedule of Catholic celebrations in the Holy Week and Easter check our holiday
Gethsemane Basilica: Summer (April – September) 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. 2:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Winter (October – March) 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
6 a.m. – Mass in Italian language is held everyday in the Basilica of Agony
4 p.m. – On every Thursday, except the 1st Thursday of the month, there is a mass in Latin and Italian languages, which is followed by half an hour adoration. On the 1st Thursday of the month there is celebrated a Holy Hour.