What is the Garden of Gethsemane?:
One of the most famous places mentioned in the gospels may be the Garden of Gethsemane according to Mark and Matthew, this was the place where Jesus prayed alone and asked that he not have to endure the suffering and crucifixion that was to come. It was also here that his betrayal by Judas and arrest occurred. A couple of sites today claim to be the location of the Garden of Gethsemane, but none can be traced back earlier than the 4th century so the veracity of their claims is dubious.
Where is the Garden of Gethsemane?:
Gethsemane is a Greek form of the Hebrew phrase for oil press (gat shemanim). Mark and Matthew describe a place called Gethsemane located near the Mount of Olives. John describes Jesus betrayal as occurring in a garden located across the Kidron valley east of Jerusalem and thus on the western slope of the Mount of Olives. Christians have ever since sought out a Garden of Gethsemane east of Jerusalem and on the Mount of Olives (Hebrew: Har ha-Zetim).
Why is the Garden of Gethsemane important?:
The entire olive grove most commonly thought to have been the Garden of Gethsemane is within the walls of the Basilica of Agony. Also known as the Church of All Nations (after the twelve nations that funded it), it was built in 1924 around a section of bedrock traditionally thought to be the place here Jesus prayed alone. A 12-century Crusader chapel and a 4th-century Byzantine basilica were located here previously.
This site is currently under the control of Franciscan monks and the olives from the oldest tree at the site are regularly sent to the pope in Rome. It is thought that there are trees here that may be almost as old as 2,000 years. Currently in the Garden of Gethsemane there is an open altar that was erected by the Franciscans for the Anglican community. They hold Maundy Thursday services there on the eve of Good Friday.