Church of All Nations in the Gethsemane Garden is not like any of the churches built in the 20th century. The goal of any temple is not only to attract believers, but also to convince those who doubt the existence of God. Those times have long passed when Christians were forced to secretly pray in caves and catacombs.
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With the spread of Christianity throughout the world, churches were built more and more beautifully. Turning into works of architectural art, becoming larger and more majestic. Decorated with more and more luxury. It was filled with sacred relics – the relics of saints, miraculous icons. Every temple seems to say: I am the house of God.
The Church of All Nations existed as a project in 1919. Construction began in 1921, consecrated and opened in 1924. It is large in size, built with great art. Wonderfully decorated and owns one of the most important Christian shrines – the Stone on which Jesus performed Agony in the Garden. Hence the other name of the temple – Basilica of the Agony. And at the same time, this temple is completely unique among modern churches.
The name of Church.
The name Church of All Nations appeared, later than the original Basilica of the Agony. And the name is not an abstract figure of speech. The temple was built at the initiative of the Order of St. Francis of Assisi. On the donations of many Catholics from countries around the world. 12 domes of the temple – with the emblems of Italy and Spain, Brazil and Mexico, the USA and Canada, Argentina and Chile, France and Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom. And that’s not all the donors! But there could not be so many domes on the temple, and besides, 12 is the number of apostles.
Amazing mosaic in the apse – the gift of Ireland, Hungary and Poland. The Catholics of Australia can be proud of the fact that their donations framed the main shrine: a forged fence in the form of a crown of thorns with pigeons entangled in the thorns.
Now the Church of All Nations in Jerusalem is a natural center of religious “attraction” not only Catholics, but also all Christians. Who have the right to conduct services, though not inside the Temple – but on an interfaith “outer” altar outside.
On the south side of the church, you can see a fence decorated with a curious symbol. Two crossed hands against the background of a tau cross. A hand pointing to the left – without a sleeve. To the right – in the sleeve of a monastic cassock. You can see that the palms of both hands are pierced with nails. This is the sign of the Franciscan order. Depicted the hands of Jesus and St. Francis. St. Francis wore stigmata on his body – traces of the same wounds as Jesus. Under this relief image is a small cross of Jerusalem. The symbol of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land.
Perhaps such a huge number of donations for the construction of the Church of All Nations relates not only with the place where it was supposed to stand. But also with the fact that this order was in charge of the construction. Franciscans are officially called the Guardians of the Holy Land. They won such a right, for many centuries protecting the Christian shrines of Palestine in many battles with the Muslim authorities.
Blessed Francis of Assisi, who walked barefoot. Dragged stones for the repair of the chapel with his own hands. Kissed the lepers. Called the donkey a brother, and the bird a sister. Certainly the most charming and most humane, and therefore extremely popular in Catholicism. How not to donate to the temple, which build the brothers Francis?
Trace of Byzantium.
According to the testimony of many medieval pilgrims, at the site of the Temple of All Nations in Jerusalem at first stood the “elegant” Byzantine church. Then the church built by the crusaders. Fragments of the latter – the church called “San Savior” (“St. Savior”) were discovered during archaeological research in 1891-1901.
The architect Antonio Barluzzi was first invited to create a hospital project in Jerusalem in 1912. He returned here in 1917 as part of the British Allenby Corps. And decided to stay forever. A deeply religious Christian, Barluzzi has repeatedly claimed that Eretz Israel inspired him to work, because Jesus lived on this earth!
Both deep religiosity and professional qualities of Barluzzi convinced the chief Franciscan of Eretz Israel Ferdinando Dio Tallevi that this person should be entrusted with the construction of the most important temples. So Antonio got to work two projects at once. The Basilica of the Agony and the Church of the Transfiguration on Tabor.
Unexpected Holy Gift.
He had already begun to lay the foundation on the site of the former Crusader building, when a miracle suddenly seemed under the old medieval floor. Remnants of beautiful mosaics and columns. Elegant Byzantine church did not want to be forgotten! Antonio immediately stopped work and called in archaeologists led by Gaudentius Orfali. Which revealed the ruins of a Byzantine temple with three naves. Corinthian columns. A magnificent mosaic floor – and an uneven stone block, cut down 35 cm above the floor level. Everyone caught their breath: here it is, a stone, where after the Last Supper, Jesus took a walk to pray!
Seeing the phenomenon of the Byzantine church from the ground, from the darkness of ages, Antonio Barluzzi was so impressed that he changed his original design. The new plan coincided with the plan of the Byzantine architectural masterpiece. Barluzzi allegedly did not build a new one, but revived the old one. Even the floor mosaic was restored – the preserved ancient fragments can be seen today under glass.
Agony in the Garden.
Every Gospel, except John, describes what happened in the Garden of Gethsemane almost equally. Jesus, in a “mortal tribulation,” anticipating his own destruction, moved away from the disciples in order to speak with his Father in private. And at first, human nature, fearing death, not wanting it, spoke to Him: Jesus asks the Father to carry the cup of suffering past him. But then Jesus added: something else has started up, the divine principle – if it is impossible to do it differently, Thy will be done!
Surprisingly, the description of the Apostle Luke (who was not present at all in the Garden of Gethsemane) is the most dramatic. Here and sweat, turning into blood, and the appearance of an angel, which strengthened the restless spirit of Jesus. Perhaps Luke saw something similar in some kind of revelation, passionately wanting to know what happened to Master – there is no other explanation for these details.
The scenery of the great mystery
Antonio Barluzzi attached great importance to the fact that the temple, which he was building, stands on the site of one of the most important evangelical events. And therefore he set himself the task of creating such an atmosphere, so that everyone who comes here would remember Agony in the Garden and feel at least the echoes of what Jesus experienced here, imbued with His suffering. And he realized the meaning of this story.
Outside, the church is decorated with pink stone from Bethlehem, inside – a stone of a darker shade.
The design of the facade is very peculiar. The huge mosaic above the entrance of Giulio Bargellini portrays that for which Jesus walked his way. On it is Jesus, over whom His Father holds a sign with the letters Α and Ω – the first and the last in the Greek alphabet.
This is an artistic expression of quotes from The Book of Revelation – “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end”. Left and right of Jesus are people who came to Him, of different ages and classes (elder, young man, woman with a child, a warrior with a sword, a monk and others), accompanied by angels. A kneeling young man holds in his hand an open scroll with a Latin inscription “Ignorance.”
The traditional interpretation of this image is as follows: it symbolizes the state of minds of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who do not yet know about their sad fate. But it can be interpreted more simply. Man comes to God from a state of ignorance. This is combined with the young age of the one who holds the inscription: still innocent, but eager to know the Lord’s soul.
Under the mosaic is a quote from the Epistle to the Hebrews of the Apostle Paul, telling how Jesus called the Lord, and He heard him.
On the four columns dividing the portico into three arches for entry are statues of four evangelists with open books.
Church of All Nations – Garden inside
The spacious room is divided into three naves by columns. Everything here is designed to convey the disturbing atmosphere of the last night of Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. The window-glasses are lilac here, the design is dominated by a deep blue color, the “reverse sides” of the twelve domes are dotted with small golden crosses, which makes them look like a sky strewn with stars from below. Everywhere – images of olive branches. Illumination – the lights of lamps and candles, so the photo in the Church of All Nations is not easy to do.
Only the sacred stone Agony in the Garden in the center is brightly lit.
The altar is in the form of a huge bowl. Above him – the image of Jesus, tired and depressed, fell to the stone.
In the apses – realistic images of episodes of the Gospel story: here Judas stretches with his unfaithful kiss, here is the desperate Jesus, and here is the gallant Roman legionaries who appeared behind Him.
These works are made by a very young artist – then still students of the Roman Academy of Fine Arts Umberto Noni. Barluzzi was not mistaken, having guessed his talent – Noni graced the Church of the Transfiguration on Tabor, and after that finally entered permanently into the creative team of Barluzzi in Eretz Israel.
There are no statues inside the Temple, although this is unusual for Catholics. Perhaps this is related to the concept: Barluzzi wanted to emphasize that Jesus was alone with God.
Around the Temple
A visit to the Temple of All Nations can, if desired, be combined with a tour of other places of interest. Walk past the Garden of Gethsemane with its trees, which are 800-900 years old, does not work out – after all, the Temple stands on its territory.
Not far from the Temple are:
- Gethsemane grotto (100 m north of the Garden of Gethsemane).
- The Church of the Assumption of the Virgin and the Tomb of the Virgin (further north).
- The Church of St. Mary Magdalene (if you walk past the tomb of the Virgin Mary – to the right of the Temple of All Nations).
Both churches are Orthodox.
Church of All Nations – Useful Information
The Church of All Nations is open daily:
- 08:30 to 11:30.
- 14:30 to 16:00.
Official Website – Gethsemane – www.gethsemane-en.custodia.org
Those who arrived a little earlier can wait for the opening, looking around the Garden of Gethsemane – it opens from 08:00 to 11:45, then closes and opens again at 14:00. From April to September, it is open until 18:00, from October to March – until 17:00.
Photo and video allowed.
Cost – Admission is free.
The address of the Church of All Nations is the Mount of Olives, Jericho Road, Jerusalem, Israel.
How to get yourself:
- From Shaar Shechem (Damascus Gate) – by buses Nos. 43, 44 to the Old City.
- From the central bus station in Jerusalem – by buses “Egged” number number 1, 2, 38, 99 (get off at the Lion Gate and walk 500 m).
- From the central bus station in Jerusalem (“tahana merkazit”) by buses “Egged” Nos. 1,2, 38, 99 to the stop “Lion Gate” – and about 500 m walk.