A Welcome Refuge: Inside the Cave of Gethsemane

Sidebar to: The Garden of Gethsemane: Not the Place of Jesus’ Arrest

Jesus and his disciples regularly spent the evenings on the Mount of Olives, and the warm, dry Cave of Gethsemane would have been a natural place to find shelter, suggests Joan Taylor. The cave’s oil-press would have operated only in the autumn and winter, after the olive harvest. By spring, when Jesus and his disciples came to Jerusalem to celebrate the festival of Passover, the cave would have been used only for storage. Thousands of people made pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem during Passover, and every possible lodging in the city and surrounding village was offered to visitors.

Today, the cave is an underground chapel, with chairs set out for services. The olive-press may have been located in what is now the sanctuary, in the easternmost extension of the cave. An ancient hole in the wall, visible through the square hole cut out of the modern wall jutting out at right, lies at the exact height to support the wooden beam of the press. The press would have extended out, parallel to the modern altar, in this eastern cave extension.

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