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Basilica of Agony - Church of all Nations

The Church of All Nations, officially named the Basilica of the Agony, is located at the foot of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem next to the Garden of Gethsemane. The Catholic Church enshrines a section of stone in the Garden of Gethsemane that is believed to be where Jesus prayed on the night of his arrest (Matthew 26:36).

The modern church stands on the foundations of two ancient churches: a 4th-century Byzantine basilica, destroyed by an earthquake in 746 and a 12th-century Crusader chapel, which was abandoned in 1345.

The Basilica of the Agony was built from 1919-24 with funding from 12 different countries, which gave it its nickname: "the Church of All Nations." The church is built on the lower western foothills of Mount of Olives, facing the old city of Jerusalem, on the eastern side of Kidron valley. Its name (Gat Shemanim - means in Hebrew: oil press) came from the olive press that was used to process the olives. The church is located on the junction of 3 roads - to the old city via Lions gate, the road up Mount Olives, and the road to Jericho.

There are no references to Gat-Shemanim (Gethsemane) in the Old Testament, but the olive presses were probably in this site from previous periods, in order to process the olives of Mount of Olives. The Mount of Olives is first referred in the Bible when King David flees the city. King Solomon erected altars on the hill dedicated to false alien gods. They were later destroyed by King Josiah who "filled it with bones" to prevent future worships. Prophet Zechariah talks about the Day of Judgment, with Mount of Olives its epicenter of God's fiery fight against the enemies of Jerusalem.

In the New Testament, Gethsemane (Greek form of Gat Shemanim) is where Jesus had his last prayer before he was betrayed and arrested by the Romans. According to the texts, Jesus and his disciples came to the site in this garden "beyond the Kidron (cedron) brook", and Jesus prayed alone. Judas (Judah) knew this hiding place from previous times, and gave its position to the Romans. Jesus was apprehended at night (as per John), and led to a Jail within the city.

In the 4th C a church was constructed at this place, but was destroyed by the Persians in 614AD. It was rebuilt by the Crusaders in the 12th C, but was destroyed again by the Arabs in 1187. In1666 the Franciscans purchased the land at this site, but were not allowed to rebuild the ruined church until the British conquest.

During 1919-1924 the Franciscans order built the Catholic Church over the ruins of the Crusaders church. It was designed by the famous Italian church architect, Antonio Barluzzi, who also designed the Basilica of Beatitudes and the closer Dominus Flevit. The modern church was based on the Crusaders church, and some of its remains were embedded into the modern basilica. The church was constructed with worldwide donations, and therefore one of its names is "the church of all nations".

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