The remains of the Crusader church

The remains of the Crusader church

Once through the portico of the church, on the left side can be seen the ruins of the ancient Crusader church dedicated to the Savior from the third quarter of the 12th century. These were the first remains discovered at the end of the nineteenth century and were excavated by the Franciscans beginning in 1909. The Crusader church was significantly rotated towards the south with respect to the earlier Byzantine one, and was of larger dimensions. It had a nave and two aisles, with cruciform pillars and semicircular apses. A subsequent restoration replaced the pillars with massive octagonal ones.

The excavations and subsequent construction of the modern church have led to a lowering of the levels compared to the original church: today the imposing perimeter walls can be seen but not the pavement, which was removed during the works. The rocky bench, which rises towards the apse, would have emerged from the pavement and been visible as well during the Crusader period.

The only evidence that remains of the rich decoration that adorned the Crusader church is a fragment of a fresco showing an angel’s face, which today is preserved in the archaeological museum of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum at the Monastery of the Flagellation. The halo with a swastika that can be seen beside the angel’s face has been attributed to the figure of Christ. There are two different interpretations of the scene: that of the Agony described by Luke in which an angel appears to Jesus to comfort him, or an iconographic representation of Christ seated on the throne surrounded by the archangels.

Not all of the remains of columns and capitals scattered throughout the area belong to the Byzantine and Crusader churches of Gethsemane, as columns from the Anastasis (rotunda) of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, heavily damaged and for this reason replaced during the 20th century restoration, are also preserved here.