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26 December 2011


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Basilica of the Agony

The main Christian memories at Gethsemane are associated with the Passion of Jesus. His suffering and his prayer "Father, if it be Thy will may this cup pass from me" are remembered in the Basilica of the Agony and the ancient Olive Grove. The betrayal by Judas, one of the twelve apostles, is remembered in the Grotto of Gethsemane. Adjacent to the Grotto is the Tomb of Our Lady

Tel.: 02-626.64.44
- Fax: 02-626.14.15

Tel. Hermitage: 02-626.64.30

Sanctuary Visiting Hours

Summer: 8:00am - 12:00pm
- 2:00pm to 6:00pm

Winter: 8:00am - 12:00pm
- 2:00pm to 5:00pm

First Thursday of every month:
- Holy Hour 4:00-5:00pm

The Christian tradition

Gethsemane has been a holy place for Christians since the first centuries. "Gethsemane. The place where Christ went to pray before his Passion. It is located on the side of the Mount of Olives and the faithful still go to pray there" (Eusebius of Cesaraea, beginning of the 4th century). Very quickly, a church was built there (Saint Jerome, end of 4th century), that was called "elegant” by the pilgrim Egeria, a contemporary of Jerome. The church would have a very short life; there is no mention of it after the fourth century. We know, however, that the Crusaders build the small "Church of the Prayer" (Typicon of Anastasis, 10th-11th century) with a larger church dedicated to the Holy Savior (John of Wurzburg, 1165).

The Grotto of Gethsemane was originally a natural cavity that was probably used for pressing olives (Gat = press, shemanim = oil). The anonymous pilgrim of Bordeaux (333) mentions a large rock as the site of the Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. Egeria says that the place where Jesus was taken prisoner is a little below the Basilica of the Agony. A devotion developed there in memory of the time Jesus and the apostles spent in the grotto, as attested by the numerous graffiti that can be seen on its walls and ceiling. A church was built above the grotto in the Crusader period (12th-13th century). Both of the Gethsemane Crusader churches were destroyed and the grotto, still visited by pilgrims, came to be associated with the memory of the Agony of Jesus.

The Custody of the Holy Land, owner of the grotto since 1392, sought to acquire the surrounding areas as well. In 1891, the remains of the Crusader Church of the Savior were unearthed.

The excavations of 1909 and 1920 (Fr. G. Orfali) led to the rediscovery of the fourth century church. In 1924, the new Basilica of the Agony, created by the architect A. Barluzzi, was consecrated.

Between the two venerated sites in Gethsemane stretches "a garden filled with numerous very old olive trees, greatly esteemed by both the faithful and the nonbelievers because the peasants of this region believe that they originated in the trees that were here at the time of Christ" (F. Quaresmi, 1630).

Since 1987, the Hermitage next to the basilica has been active, reserved exclusively for guests in prayer.

The Site

The holy places of Gethsemane:
- 1. Basilica of the Agony
- 2. Olive Grove
- 3. Gethsemane Grotto
- 4. Our Lady’s Tomb

Archaeological remains near the Basilica of the Agony

Present-day basilica (architect Barluzzi, 1924)

Crusader church (ca 1170)

Byzantine church (4th century)

Biblical texts

The Prayer at Gethsemane

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to feel sorrow and distress. Then he said to them, "My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me." He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will." yet, not as I will, but as you will." When he returned to his disciples he found them asleep. He said to Peter, "So you could not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." Withdrawing a second time, he prayed again, "My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!" Then he returned once more and found them asleep, for they could not keep their eyes open. He left them and withdrew again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing again. Then he returned to his disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand when the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners. Get up, let us go. Look, my betrayer is at hand."

Betrayal and Arrest

While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived, accompanied by a large crowd, with swords and clubs, who had come from the chief priests and the elders of the people. His betrayer had arranged a sign with them, saying, "The man I shall kiss is the one; arrest him." Immediately he went over to Jesus and said, "Hail, Rabbi!" and he kissed him. Jesus answered him, "Friend, do what you have come for." Then stepping forward they laid hands on Jesus and arrested him. And behold, one of those who accompanied Jesus put his hand to his sword, drew it, and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his ear.

Then Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot call upon my Father and he will not provide me at this moment with more than twelve legions of angels? But then how would the scriptures be fulfilled which say that it must come to pass in this way?" At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, "Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to seize me? Day after day I sat teaching in the temple area, yet you did not arrest me. But all this has come to pass that the writings of the prophets may be fulfilled." Then all the disciples left him and fled. (Matthew 26:26-56)

Other details are related by the other evangelists. Luke mentions Jesus sweating blood during the agony and the angel who consoled him; John speaks of the site as a safe place that Jesus and the apostles visited habitually and strongly emphasizes the fact that Jesus surrendered to his enemies of his own free will; Mark, finally, records a detail of perhaps a personal nature: "And they all left him and fled. Now a young man followed him wearing nothing but a linen cloth about his body. They seized him, but he left the cloth behind and ran off naked" (Mark 14:50-52).


Guide: Let us lift up our prayers for the Church and the whole world to God the Father, who, here at Gethsemane, answered the prayer of his Son Jesus.All : Hear us, O Lord

1. For the Church, progressing toward the Heavenly Jerusalem, that its pastors and faithful may live lives in accordance with the example and words of Jesus in prayer at Gethsemane. Let us pray:

2. For the political and military authorities, that they may be conscious of the judgment of God and history, and never use their power against the innocent and the common good. Let us pray:

3. For the peoples and individuals who are victims of injustice and persecution, that they may be sustained by the rectitude of their conscience and the fidelity of divine justice. Let us pray:

4. For those who because of their faith in God or their respect for the human person console the afflicted, that the Lord may sustain them and reward their sacrifice. Let us pray:

5. For us and for all those who unite themselves with our pilgrimage, that the mystery of Gethsemane obtain for them the grace of prayer and vigilance. Let us pray:

Guide: God, our good Father, by the merit of Jesus who experienced mortal anxiety until he sweat blood here at Gethsemane and was obedient even to death on the cross, let us overcome all temptation and find our peace in doing your will. All : Amen.