Garden of Gethsemane
The Garden of Gethsemane sits at the foot of the Mount of Olives, commonly called Mount Olivet, in the city of Jerusalem. This garden is one of the many important Christian sites in Israel, where it is said that Jesus and his disciples came to pray on the night of his arrest. The Church of All Nations was erected on the rock next to the garden where Jesus experienced his agony in the garden. Many people have made special pilgrimages to this site for many years, even as far back as 333 AD, and today, visitors from all over the world and from many different faiths come to pray at the open altar of the Church of All Nations.
History places the Garden of Gethsemane at the foot of Mount Olivet, and though the exact location is quite obscure, the gardens here are continuously visited by the faithful. These gardens were a favorite place for Jesus and his disciples to visit, and so they came here frequently, including on the final night before the crucifixion. The betrayal of Judas and the final prayers are said to have taken place on a stone within the garden, a piece of bedrock, which is now enshrined and hallowed just in front of the altar of the Church of All Nations, currently located next to the Garden of Gethsemane.
The name Gethsemane is derived from the Aramaic word, meaning oil press, which is fitting due to the amount of olives that grew on Mount Olivet. Olive groves once covered the slopes of the mount, giving way to the appropriate name. The olive trees that grow there today are said to be nearly 900 years old.
Before the current church was built on site, there were two other churches erected on the same location, one from the seventh century and another in the thirteenth century; both were destroyed and later excavated by the architect of the current church. The Church of All Nations, which was completed and consecrated in 1924, is also known as the Church of the Agony, as it protects the rock on which Jesus encountered His agony. There is an open altar in the gardens of the church where followers of Christ belonging to many different denominations come to worship in their own way.
Gethsemane is a very important religious site for all devotees of Christ. It is also, according to Orthodox tradition, the place where Mary died before her ascension into heaven. The Blessed Virgin is said to have walked, many times, the footsteps of her son after his death and resurrection, marking the beginning of the traditional Way of the Cross.
Tours of the Holy Land overall or simply of historical sites in Jerusalem often include a stop at Gethsemane, and travelers interested in visiting other sacred Christian sites in the Holy Land can also include visits to the Via Dolorosa and the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth to their Israel vacation itinerary. The religious history of Israel encompasses Christian, Jewish, and Islamic traditions, and there is no shortage of deeply affecting places to see during a trip to this part of the world. Visitors to Gethsemane may walk away with something more than just fond memories: a life forever changed and a deeper understanding of the history of religion in the Holy Land.
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