The American Colony photographers took many pictures of the Garden of Gethsemane during the first half of the 20th century. Presumably, they were big sellers in the Colony’s tourist shop near Jaffa Gate.
‘Gethsemane’ is a Greek word derived from an Aramaic word for ‘oil-press.’ The Roman Catholic-administered garden is located at the foot of the Mount of Olives. It is one of four locations in the area currently claimed by different religions as the place where Jesus prayed the night before the crucifixion.
In the gospels of Matthew and Mark, it is called by a word meaning ‘place,’ ‘property,’ or ‘estate.’ In the gospel of John, the Greek word ‘kepos’ is used; it can mean ‘garden,’ but also ‘cultivated tract of land.’
The first recorded pilgrimage to the site was made in 333 A.D. by the anonymous “Pilgrim of Bordeaux,” who recorded his travels in the Holy Land in Itinerarium Burdigalense.
The building attached to the garden, the Church of All Nations, was built in the 1920s. The garden’s olive trees are said to be 2,000, 1,000, or 900 years old, depending on the source.
In 1915, a plague of locusts swept through Palestine, stripping areas — including the garden — of all vegetation. The American Colony was asked to photograph the devastation, which caused food shortages, by the Ottoman-Turkish governor for “Syria and Arabia.”