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The Church of All Nations

September 23, 2019

Designed by Italian architect Antonio Berluzzi, the Church of All Nations was built in the 1920’s. It is located on the Mt. of Olives, on the site of the Garden of Gethsemane, and is one of the main churches dominating the panorama of the mount. The funds for constructing the church were donated by many nations, which is where the name of the church originated. However in 1922, it was officially consecrated as the Basilica of the Agony.

The church was built over the slab of bedrock, on which it is said that Jesus spent his last night in agonizing prayer, sweating blood. The stone is in the middle of the present church, in front of the altar. The church was built on the site of two previous chapels that had been destroyed – a 12th century Crusader chapel that was abandoned, and a 4th century Byzantine church that was destroyed in an earthquake, the remnants of which, including a magnificent mosaic floor and pillar, were found during the digging works for laying the foundations of the present church. The architect had the excavations of this church completed, and the results can be seen under a glass floor from inside the church building.

The donations for the church came from many nations – Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Belgium, Chile, Canada, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Mexico, Poland, Spain and the United States of America. Each nation is represented by a coat of arms on the ceiling in a separate dome. The church is separated into three aisles by six violet colored alabaster columns, while the ceiling is painted blue and dotted with stars, depicting the night sky. The somber colors and semi-darkness present in the church are made to represent the somber and tragic atmosphere surrounding the last night of Jesus before his arrest.

The neoclassical appearance of the church derives from the Corinthian style columns that support the front atop which are statues of the four evangelists, as well as the magnificent mosaic adorning the façade. The church itself is made of two types of stone. The interior stone was quarried just north of Jerusalem, whereas the exterior rose colored stone came from Bethlehem. The Church of All Nations is a Roman Catholic Church, currently entrusted to the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. In the gardens there is an outside altar which is used by many Christian denominations, including Roman Catholic, such as Eastern Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Protestant Lutheran, Evangelical, Anglican, and any other version of Christianity that is culturally unique to any particular nation.

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