Of the many Christian sites in Jerusalem, no tour to the Holy Land and no trip to Jerusalem will be complete without a visit to the Church of All Nations. Believed to be Jesus' final sanctuary and the exact location of his Passion, the Church of All Nations (often referred to as the Basilica of Agony) is situated at the foot of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. It is in this pastoral location that, according to the scriptures, Christ was last seen praying before being captured by the Romans and sentenced to be crucified.
The flawless Byzantine architecture and breathtaking mosaics that characterize the basilica have often been compared, in their grandeur and sheer splendor, to the cathedrals of Italy and Spain. And while the Church of All Nations does not share any particular architectural features with the cathedrals of Rome or Barcelona, its stylish facade and elegant atrium, reached by climbing a broad flight of stairs, do not pale in comparison. A visit to this enchanting building is almost mandatory and well worth the time when on a Christian tour to Israel, whether your interest is religious or purely architectural.
For those with an eye for aesthetics and an appreciation for design, the Church of All Nations may be of interest due to its combination of local and foreign styles. While the facade of the building is traditionally Catholic and stems from the architectural styles of Europe, the sides of the building and its roof (made up of several small domes) are characteristic of Islamic architecture.
Inside the church, before the high altar, visitors will find a large fragment of the rock on which Jesus prayed. The rock is entirely surrounded by a crown of thorns made of wrought iron, symbolic of the one set of Christ's head.
Church of All Nations - The Garden of Gethsemane
Believed to have been an olive garden in Biblical times too, the present day Garden of Gethsemane gets its name from the Hebrew Gat Shemen, meaning an olive press. As its namesake indicates, the garden is lush with ancient olive trees. Archeologists and botanists agree that that the olive trees seen in the garden today are thousands of years old, and mostly likely the very trees that populated the Biblical garden as it is described in the Gospel of Matthew.
Added to the garden's beauty and its significance as a green spot amid the metropolis that is Jerusalem, is its relevance to the story of Jesus' final hours. For it is written in the Gospel of Matthew: "and they came to a place which was named Gethsemane and he saith to his disciples, sit ye here while I shall pray".
When on a tour to the Holy Landand visiting the Church of All Nations, be sure to take the time to stroll through the adjacent Garden of Gethsemane. It is the perfecting setting for contemplation, meditation and prayer.