The Church of the Agony

The Church of the Agony - also known as "The Church of All Nations" because a large number of countries contributed to its cost, is situated in the Garden of Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives. The present church was built to a design of Antonio Barluzzi and construction commenced in 1922, taking about two years to complete. The building includes elements of the much earlier 4-5th century Byzantine church and is built round the same rock on which Jesus prayed throughout the night immediately preceding his arrest. Over the lintel leading into the church is the quotation "Sustinete hic et vigilate mecum" - "Stay here and keep watch" (Mark 14 v.34 N.E.V), while the gable, above the triple-arched façade is decorated with a magnificent mosaic depicting Jesus as being the bonding element between the poor and ignorant and the Divine. Beneath the mosaic, and running the width of the architrave is a quotation from Hebrews 5:vii"Preces supplicationesque cum clamore valido et lacrymis offerens exauditus est pro sua reverentia" - "(Jesus) offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that heard him because of his fear". At the very top of the gable the cross is supported on both sides by two stags reminiscent of the 42nd Psalm: "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God". Over the door itself is the quotation from Mark XIV: 32:(Vulg.): "Et veniunt in praedium cui nomen Gethsemani et ait discipulis suis sedete hic donec orem." - "(And Jesus) went with them and they came to a place called Gethsemane." Other quotations from the gospels directly surrounding the events which took place that night, are to be found accompanying the three beautiful mosaics in the apses; the church has been deliberately designed with dark-toned stained-glass windows to simulate the idea of the night-time, a motif heightened by the dark blue "starry" night depicted on the ceiling. The ceiling itself is created out of twelve small domes, each decorated with motifs and national emblems identifying those States which donated either money or decorations for the building of the church. Various other mosaics on the walls are donations from some of those same countries. The rock on which Jesus prayed is surrounded by a low rail in the form of a crown of thorns, while the altar support is in the form of a chalice poignantly emphasizing Jesus' prayer: "... if it be possible let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt." (Matthew 26 v.39 King James).