The Garden of Gethsemane is a strikingly beautiful garden, located at the foot of the Mount of Olives. A visit here is a highlight of any trip to Jerusalem’s Christian sites; steeped in biblical history, the Garden of Gethsemane is most famously known as the place where Jesus went with his disciples to pray after the Last Supper on the eve of his crucifixion.
Gethsemane means oil press (derived from Aramaic) which is the perfect description of this garden, which is resplendent with ancient olive trees. Whilst there is much debate surrounding the actual age of the trees, with some believing that they are an impressive 900 years old, whilst others claim that the tress could well have been young saplings during Jesus’s lifetime, the one fact that is not disputed is the undeniable beauty of the Garden of Gethsemane.
Today the garden, which would have been an olive grove complete with an olive press during Jesus’s time, features lush gardens with the ancient, gnarled trees rising from amidst the wonderfully manicured and tended flower beds.
The garden has become a significant site of Christian pilgrimage and was notably visited as early as 333 by the Pilgrim of Bordeaux, an anonymous pilgrim who wrote Itinerarium Burdigalense. This writing is considered to be one of the earliest descriptions of the Holy Land by a Christian traveler.
A visit to the Church of All Nations, which is located next to the Garden of Gethsemane and which was built fairly recently when considered against the backdrop of the area’s otherwise long and rich history, provides a brilliantly detailed and amazingly colored picture of the early events of the garden. This 1920s church depicts the garden though ceiling mosaics which include recreations of Jesus praying alone, the betrayal of Jesus, and the cutting of the ear of the high priest’s servant.
According to the traditions of the Eastern Orthodox Church it is believed that the Garden of Gethsemane is the location where the Virgin Mary was buried and assumed into heaven after her dormition on Mount Zion, and forms the location of pilgrimage for this purpose also.
The best route for getting to the Garden of Gethsemane is to go through the Dung Gate and then turn to the left towards the Mount of Olives. Once through the gate you will see stairs that will take you down towards the Kidron Valley where there is a path that will take you all the way to the Garden of Gethsemane.
The Garden of Gethsemane is free to enter and with perhaps some of the oldest olive trees in the world is one of the most rewarding Christian sites to visit in Jerusalem, offering a unique sense of the long history entrenched in this amazing country.