The Garden of Gethsemane is a pivotal location to the Gospel narrative in the New Testament. This was where Jesus and his followers prayed the night before their leader was taken by the soldiers and ultimately crucified. The garden is located at the foot of the Mount of Olives in the Kidron Valley, but although the sacred mount is easy to locate today, there are disputes as to where the famous garden was originally located.
There are four groups of people pointing to four different spots. Traditionally, devotees believe that the garden is near the Tomb of the Virgin Mary to the north of the Mount of Olives, the Greek Orthodox believes it is to the east, the Church of All Nations points to a garden with the Rock of the Agony, and the Russian Orthodox points to their orchard beside the Church of Saint Maria Magdalene.
The most popular belief is the one near the Church of All Nations, also known as the Basilica of the Agony, pertaining to Christ’s agonizing prayer in the garden before his crucifixion. The Roman Catholic Basilica put up a shrine over a portion of the rock where Jesus supposedly prayed and named it the Rock of the Agony. The garden is found within the wall of the church, along with 2,000-year-old olive trees. These trees could have been standing already when Jesus and his disciples prayed there.
This garden within the Basilica is one of the highlights for Christian pilgrims who regularly come to follow Christ’s path leading to Golgotha. Golgotha or Calvary, on the other hand, is housed within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Jewish Quarter within Jerusalem’s Old City. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher also points to the actual tomb where Christ was buried and resurrected.
Another site claiming to encompass a portion of the real garden is the Greek Orthodox Church to the east of the mount. The church also claims that its underground rooms held Christ in prison when he was held, whipped and tried just before the crucifixion. One of the church’s buildings bears the sign “Prison of Christ”.
Apparently, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher makes the same claim for its Holy Prison room. This Roman Catholic Church is located within the Old City away from the Mount of Olives.
The Eastern Orthodox Church, on the other hand, believes that the Garden of Gethsemane is not far from the north side of the Tomb of the Virgin Mary. The Virgin Mary was supposed to be buried at the foot of the Mount of Olives in the Valley of Jehoshaphat, according to several Apocryphal writings. Some Christian traditions believe that after her death and burial, the Virgin’s physical body was taken up to heaven, and so what remained was an empty tomb.
Finally, the Russian Orthodox Church upholds that the Garden of Gethsemane is where they have built the majestic Church of Saint Mary Magdalene on the slope of the Mount of Olives. The majestic cathedral is one of the most recognizable buildings in Jerusalem.