The Crusader and Byzantine churches in the Garden of Gethsemane

Detail of ''Hague map'' of Jerusalem (1170-1180 AD)

In the autumn of 1891, due to a series of fortuitous circumstances, the walls of an apse and several mosaic fragments in thick tessera were discovered on land adjacent to the Garden of Olives.

Systematic excavations were able to begin in March 1909, carried out by fra Luc Thonessen. The results of the excavations convinced Father Orfali, the initiator of Franciscan archaeology in the Holy Land, that the remains were those of the 12th century Crusader church built on the place ascribed by tradition to the “Agony” and referred to in medieval sources as “church of the Savior” or “church of the Savior’s Prayer”.

The architect in charge of the construction works for the modern church at Gethsemane, Antonio Barluzzi, subsequently made a sensational discovery while excavating the deep foundations of the new building: two meters below the level of the medieval church were the remains of an even older church.

This was in fact the Byzantine-era church in Gethsemane described by Egeria and which she considered to be “elegant”. As a result of this discovery, and as suggested by Barluzzi himself, the Custody of the Holy Land designed the new church in Gethsemane on the basis of the older (Byzantine) church.

The Crusader church

The Byzantine church