Church of the Week: Church of All Nations

This week's church is the Church of All Nations in Jerusalem, at the base of the Mount of Olives. It rests on the foundations of two earlier churches, that of a small 12th century Crusader chapel abandoned in 1345, and a 4th century Byzantine basilica, destroyed by an earthquake in 746.

In 1920, during work on the foundations, a column was found two meters beneath the floor of the medieval crusader chapel. Fragments of a magnificent mosaic were also found. Following this discovery the architect immediately removed the new foundations and began excavations of the earlier church. After the remains of the Byzantine era church were fully excavated, plans for the new church were altered and work continued on the current basilica from April 19, 1922, until June, 1924, when it was consecrated. It is called the Church of All Nations (also the Basilica of the Agony) because many nations contributed funds and materials for its construction.

The hillside the church occupies is home to a grove of olive trees, on the ancient site of the Garden of Gethsemane.

The church's altar is built around the exposed bedrock, possibly the place where Jesus prayed in the hours before his arrest and crucifixion.

We have visited this church three times, in 1987, 2001, and 2005, and should see it again in the next few days, during our 2010 visit to Jerusalem. The photo below, of Robin's father Dick praying at the stone where Jesus is believed to have wept great tears and sweat drops of blood in anticipation of his crucifixion, was taken in 2001.

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