Saturday, October 9, 2010
The Church of All Nations
The verdant northern slopes of the Mount of Olives are home to not only the ancient, olive-studded Garden of Gethsemane but also several of the most impressive churches in all Jerusalem, churches representing a broad swath of Christianity.
Among the Catholics' holdings is the Church of All Nations, a singular work of religious architecture built between 1919 and 1924 with donations from Catholic communities in dozens of countries. As way of thanks, the national symbols of each donating country were built into separate domes on the church's ceiling, lending the roof its memorably odd bubble structure.
While the Church of All Nations is relatively new, it has roots in earliest Christianity: a 4th century Byzantine basilica once stood on the site, until it was destroyed by an earthquake that ravaged Jerusalem in 746 A.D. Centuries later, a Crusader chapel was built on the site but was eventually abandoned.
Stunning mosaics adorn the facade of the church. From a distance, the luminous tiles brilliantly reflect the Middle Eastern sun. The mosaic depicts Jesus acting as a conduit between God and the nations of the world.
Inside, the windows are of tinted alabaster so that the lighting is subdued, creating a somber atmosphere. In front of the high altar is the Rock of Agony, lying flat and smoothed with the passage of time, surrounded by a crown of thorns made of wrought iron. The murmur of prayer is the only sound here; all else is silent.