top of page
Chapter 12/19 of book       SEE JERUSALEM      by      INAM R SEHRI


In Jerusalem City; the Tomb of the Virgin Mary is situated near the Church of All Nations and the Garden of Gethsemane; she had died in year 41AD. The New Testa­ment says nothing about the death or bur­ial of holy Mary – but deep underground, accessible only by 47 steps carved from the rock in 12th century; this is a multi-faith place of worship for Muslims and Christians who believe holy Mary is buried there.

The burial chamber is sheltered within a barrier, so that a visitor must bend forward in order to enter – could be to demonstrate their respect for the sanctity of the site. The tomb is dated as of the 1st century. A church was built above the tomb during the same period that Constantine built the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Most Christians believe that Holy Mary was res­urrected after her death.

While partway down, on the right, is a niche dedicated to holy Mary’s parents, Anne and Joachim. This small chapel was originally the burial place of a Crusader Queen Melisande who died in 1161 AD. Al­most opposite is a niche dedicated to St Jo­seph; women connected to Cru­sader kings are buried here.

The crypt, much of it cut into solid rock, is dark and gloomy. The smell of incense fills the air, the ceiling is blackened by centuries of candle smoke, and gold and silver lamps hang in profusion. To the right, a small aedicule houses a stone bench on which Mary’s body is believed to have lain. The aedicule is richly decorated with Eastern Orthodox icons, candlesticks and flowers, but the interior is bare. Narrow openings on two sides allow access, and three holes in wall of the tomb enable pilgrims to touch it.

The church belonged to the Catho­lic Franciscans from 1363 AD until 1757 AD; later it passed to the Eastern  Orthodox churches. Muslims also worship here. In the wall to the right of the Tomb of Mary is a  mihrab  niche giving the direction of Mak­kah. It was installed after Saladin’s conquest in 12th century. The place is holy to the Muslims because they believe Prophet Muhammad pbuh saw a light over the tomb of his “sister Mary” during his Night Journey to Jerusalem.


A section of the cave has been set aside for Muslims to pray, because the Virgin Mary is revered more in Islam.

The Sacred Christian­ity also holds that the Virgin Mary died a natural death [the falling asleep] but her body was resurrected on the third day after her repose; she was taken up, soul and body, into heaven as Her tomb was found empty. Roman Catholics hold that Mary was "as­sumed into heaven” in bodily form.


While coming out of Holy Mary’s tomb, the tourists definitely visit Gethsemane Church which is seen at immediate left of the Tomb’s  entrance. It is a small church but very aesthetically carved out of another cave; walls and ceiling all are of stone in natural and original texture. Every time the prayer sessions are on for the tourists. In the area at the foot of Mount of Olives, called the Kidron Valley, one can visit Gethsemane gardens and its two spectacular churches.

The Kidron Valley has vast burial grounds over the centuries. This is where the Messiah would come to raise up the dead; the Jews believed [Zechariah 14:4].


​Gets its name be­cause the area used to be covered in olive trees in ancient times. This is a very significant site and has been used as a Jewish cemetery for over 3,000 years and contains an estimated 150,000 graves. From the top it offers spectacular views of Jerusalem and is just a sight in itself. Most people tend to spend their time at the foot of Mount of Olives. Here is where you can find the picturesque St Mary Magdalene Church, with its golden domes, common in Russian Orthodox churches.

Mount of Olives is a place the Christians are told about since their childhood. The area is mentioned several times in the Old Testament and appears several times in the New Testament, since Jesus was ‘a regular visitor’ of this place. In a city where it is sometimes difficult to separate history and religion, these credentials make Mount of Olives one of the most interesting sites around Jerusalem. One of the most inter­esting places is the Church Pater Noster, built next to the place it is believed Jesus taught the Lord’s Prayer. There, you can find many tiled panels with the prayer in more than 140 languages.


​Gethsemane, in Hebrew called an ‘oil press’, is a garden most famous as the place where holy Jesus prayed and his disciples slept the night before Jesus' cruci­fixion - the site recorded as where the agony in the garden took place; it appears in the Gospel of Matthew [26:36] and of Mark [14:31-32]. It was a place that holy Jesus and his disciples customarily visited, which allowed Judas to find him on the night of his arrest. In Christianity, there are four locations claimed to be the place where Jesus prayed on the [last] night he was betrayed – all the four lie here within the radius of 100 yards.

Modern scholarships acknowledge that the location of Gethsemane is unknown – which is also NOT true; Luke [22:43–44] may be taken as guidance. In fact, the Garden of Gethsemane became a focal site for early Christian pilgrims; the faithful were accustomed to go there to pray at the place of eight ancient olive trees.

A study conducted by the National Research Council of Italy in 2012 found that several olive trees in the garden are amongst the oldest known to science. Dates of 1092, 1166 and 1198 AD were obtained by carbon dating from older parts of the trunks of three trees. The question is still not settled because olive trees can grow back from roots even after cut down in depth.  However the researcher writes:


“All the tree trunks are hollow inside so that the central, older wood is missing [but] only three from a total of eight olive trees could be successfully dated.” 


Some historian priests held that roots of the oldest trees are possibly much older – could be dating as 3000 years back.


​It stands out­side eastern wall of the Haram Sharif [Tem­ple Mount] nearby Gethsemane - built over the rock on which holy Jesus prayed in ag­ony the night earlier he was arrested before crucifixion. The church is also known as the Basilica of the Agony; Christians book Mark 14:32-42 is referred.

The current church rests on the foundations of two earlier ones, that of a small 12th century  Crusader  chapel abandoned in 1345 AD, and a 4th-century Byzantine basilica, destroyed by an earthquake in year 746 AD.


In 1920, during work on the foundations, a column of the crusader chapel was found two meters beneath the floor. Following this discovery the architects immediately removed the new foundations and began excavations of the earlier church. After the remains of the Byzantine era church were fully excavated plans for the new church were altered and work continued on the current basilica in April 1922; till June 1924 it was completed.

The basilica is called the Church of All Na­tions because many countries contributed to the cost of construction; na­tional symbols of 12 donor countries are inside the ceiling domes. The mosaics in the apses were donated by Hungary, Ireland and Po­land. The wrought-iron wreath around the Rock of Agony was given by Australia. The church and the whole site provide an evoca­tive place for meditation during night. Out­side: with a roof of 12 small domes, the rich coloured triangular mosaic at the top of the façade makes it a Jerusalem landmark.

Two types of stone were used in the con­struction of this church: the Lifta stone of Jerusalem and rose-stone from Bethlehem. The building is divided by six columns into three aisles; violet colours were used for the windows to evoke a mood of depression analogous to holy Christ's agony. The facade of the church is supported by a row of Corinthian  columns; atop each col­umn sits statues of the Four Christian Evan­gelists - set below a modern mosaic depict­ing Jesus Christ as mediator be­tween God and man; the whole set gives the said church a neo-classical look.

During construction, parts of the mosaic floor of the original  Byzantine church were discovered. These were preserved under glass and may be seen in the floor of the south aisle. The architect then copied this 4th-century mosaic design in the floor of the modern church, to suggest a spiri­tual continuity hroughout the ages of faith.

12.1 Mary's Tomb 484 [4.1x5.3].png

Entrance to the burial cave / Tomb of the holy Mary

12.2 H Mary's Tomb  1531 [5.8x3.7].png

47 stone-cut stairs go down to tomb of the holy Mary [2018] @

12.4 H Mary's Tomb  1545 [6x2.9].png

Grave-rock of the holy Mary [2018] @

12.5 H Mary's Tomb  1548 [2.75x4.3].png
12.7.1 Ch in Cave 1559 [3x4.5].png

[Church in Cave [2018] @

[Coming out of Holy Mary's Tomb [2018]

12.7.2 Geths Ch in Cave 518 [6x4].png

Church in the cave - Gethsemani

12.8.3 3000 yrs old Trees 273a [6x4].png
12.8.2 Garden of Agony 271 [6x4].png

Garden of the Agony [2018] @

12.8.1 Garden of Agony 0915 [6x4].png

Garden of the Agony - the olive trees are 3000+ yrs old [2018] @

12.95 Mary's Tomb 503 [6x4].png

Inside tomb of the holy Mary [2018] @

12.11 Ch of All Nations 1521 [5.5x3.7].p

Church of All Nations [2018] @

12.10 Ch of All Nations 0893 [5.5x3.7].p

Church of All Nations [2018] @

12.98 Basilica of Agony 267g [6x4].png

Ceiling of the Church of All Nations 

12.9 Ch of All Nations 1565 [5x2.7].png

Rock inside Church of All Nations [2018] @

bottom of page