A short account of the Gethsemane area given by your Israel & Jerusalem private tour guide

The Garden of Gethsemane is located on the slope of the Mt of Olives, very close to the Kidron Valley, and opposite the city walls and Temple Mount.

The Garden consists of seven very old olive trees, and some young ones, as well. According to an old tradition, this is the place where Jesus used to stay with his disciples (John 18) and where he was arrested by the Roman soldiers. The meaning of the Greek name Gethsemane probably comes from the Aramaic “olive press”.

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What we can see here

Apart from the old trees – probably 900 years old, as documented in the latest research – the main attraction is the new Church of Agony. The garden belongs to the Catholic Franciscan Order, and they are the ones who built the church in 1924. The church commemorates Jesus being in agony before his arrest, as he predicted what was going to happen.

The church is built on the ruins of a 6th century Byzantine church, which was probably built then for the Agony. Segments of the old walls and mosaic floor can be seen in the new church. Part of the original rock was left in front of the altar to mark the spot of the Agony.

Next to the garden, further down the valley, there is another church. This church marks the traditional place of the Virgin Mary’s Tomb. Even though there is no mention of her in the New Testament after Jesus’ crucifixion, traditions from the 2nd century told of her falling asleep rather than dying, and later, of Jesus assuming her to heaven.

In the 5th century, one of the many burial caves in the valley at the foot of Mt of Olives was dedicated as the one in which Mary’s body was interred. A chapel was built around this cave, and it is the same one that we see today, which is kept by the Greek Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox. The entrance and staircase are from the 12th century.

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