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The Sites

Israel and Palestine – In Jerusalem

Israel and Palestine – Outside Jerusalem




Akeldama (Field of Blood)



Monastery of St Onuphrius (Seetheholyland.net)

Akeldama, where Judas Iscariot died, is in Jerusalem’s Hinnom Valley — a picturesque setting whose infamous history of child sacrifices caused it to be identified with the hell of unquenchable fire and punishment.

The Greek Orthodox Monastery of St Onuphrius now stands on the place where Judas is believed to have hanged himself. The monastery occupies a narrow terrace on the southern face of the valley, facing Mount Zion and the Old City walls.

Akeldama (also spelt Aceldama, Hekeldama and Hakeldama) comes from Aramaic words meaning Field of Blood.

The Gospel of Matthew says Judas was filled with remorse after betraying Jesus with a kiss at Gethsemane. He then took his payment of 30 pieces of silver back to the chief priests and elders, and threw the money down in the Temple.

“The chief priests picked up the coins and said, ‘It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money’. So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day.” (27:6-8)


Monastery stands among burial caves


Olive trees in Hinnom Valley (Seetheholyland.net)

The Monastery of St Onuphrius, built in 1874 over the remains of an earlier church building, is occupied by a small community of Greek Orthodox nuns.

It is dedicated to a saintly monk from the 3rd or 4th century. Onuphrius was famous for his luxuriant beard, which was his only garment apart from a loincloth of leaves.

The hillside on which the monastery stands is honeycombed with burial caves and tombs — some of them holding the bones of pilgrims of past centuries who came to Jerusalem but did not survive to make the journey home.


Icon of St Onuphrius in Monastery of St Onuphrius (Seetheholyland.net)

In the Byzantine period, many of these caves were occupied by monks and hermits.

The monastery chapel is in a former burial cave, with holes in the walls where bodies were laid. A 16th-century tradition says eight of the apostles hid here after Jesus was captured at Gethsemane.


Crusaders built charnel house

Near the Monastery of St Onuphrius are the remains of an underground charnel house built by the Crusaders in the 12th century, to bury the 50 or more patients who died each day in the hospital run by the Knights of St John near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Loads of soil from this place were often taken to consecrate Christian cemeteries in Europe.


Burial niches in Monastery of St Onuphrius (Seetheholyland.net)

One of the tombs found near the monastery is believed to be that of Annas, head of the high priestly family that included Caiaphas, who presided at the trial of Jesus.

On the same side of the Hinnom Valley, archaeologists excavating a tomb in 1979 found two tiny silver scrolls from around 600 BC, inscribed with portions of the priestly blessing from the Book of Numbers: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.” (6:24-26)

These inscriptions are the earliest known citations of texts found in the Hebrew Bible.


Place of child sacrifice

During the First Temple period the Hinnom Valley became notorious as the place where apostate Jews sacrificed their children through fire to the pagan god Moloch.


View from terrace in Monastery of St Onuphrius (Seetheholyland.net)

Because of these atrocities, the valley’s name (Gei-Hinnom in Hebrew, Gehenna in Greek) became a byword for hell, the place of eternal punishment by fire, in both Jewish and Christian traditions.

In the Gospels, Jesus uses the Greek word Gehenna 11 times to describe the hell of unquenchable fire which can destroy “both body and soul” (Matthew 10:28).

However, a Middle Ages belief that the Hinnom Valley continued to belch smoke and fire because it was a perpetually burning rubbish dump has no basis in fact.

In modern times the Hinnom Valley has become a green and pleasant venue for picnics, rock climbing and concerts.


In Scripture:

Child sacrifice in the Hinnom Valley: 2 Chronicles 33:6

Child sacrifice condemned by God: Jeremiah 7:30-32

Jesus refers to the unquenchable fire of Gehenna: Mark 9:43

The purchase of the Field of Blood: Matthew 27:3-10


Monastery of St Onuphrius

Administered by: Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem

Tel.: Monastery, +972-505-315530; Patriarchate, +972-262-85636

Open: Apr-Sep, Tuesdays and Thursdays 9am-12 noon, 4-7pm

Oct-Mar, Tuesdays and Thursdays 9am-12 noon, 3-5pm




Hilliard, Alison, and Bailey, Betty Jane: Living Stones Pilgrimage: With the Christians of the Holy Land (Cassell, 1999)
Mackowski, Richard M.: Jerusalem: City of Jesus (William B. Eerdmans, 1980)
Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome: The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 (Oxford University Press, 2005)
Prag, Kay: Jerusalem: Blue Guide (A. & C. Black, 1989)
Ritmeyer, Leen and Kathleen: “Potter’s Field or High Priest’s Tomb” (Biblical Archaeology Review, November/December 1994)


External links

Gehenna (Wikipedia)
The Myth of the Burning Garbage Dump of Gehenna (BiblePlaces)

Church of All Nations


Church of All Nations

Facade of Church of All Nations (Seetheholyland.net)

The Church of All Nations, standing near the foot of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, is built over the rock on which Jesus is believed to have prayed in agony the night before he was crucified.

The church and the adjacent Garden of Gethsemane, with its eight ancient olive trees, provide an evocative place for meditation, especially when visited at night.

The church is also known as the Basilica of the Agony. Completed in 1924, it is the third church on the site.

Its design blends the façade of a typically Roman basilica with a roof of 12 small domes that suggest an Eastern character. The richly-coloured triangular mosaic at the top of the façade makes it a Jerusalem landmark.


Jesus prayed in anguish

Church of All Nations

Rock of Agony in the Church of All Nations (Seetheholyland.net)

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke tell that Jesus and his disciples went to the Mount of Olives after the Last Supper.

He left eight of the disciples together in one place and withdrew further with Peter, James and John. He asked them — the three who had witnessed his Transfiguration — to stay awake with him while he prayed.

Jesus “threw himself on the ground” (Matthew 26:39) and in his anguish “his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground” (Luke 22:44). But the three disciples, all of them fishermen who were used to working through the night, could not stay awake “because of grief” (Luke 22:45).

Then a group from the chief priests and elders arrived to arrest Jesus. They were led by Judas, who betrayed his Master with a kiss.


Sombre atmosphere in church

Church of All Nations

Main altar in Church of All Nations (Seetheholyland.net)

An atmosphere of sorrowful reverence pervades the Church of All Nations. The architect, Antonio Barluzzi, evoked the night-time of the Agony by leaving the interior in semi-darkness, relieved only by subdued natural light filtered through violet-blue alabaster windows.

The sombre blue of a star-studded night sky is recreated in the ceiling domes, the stars being surrounded by olive branches reminiscent of the Gethsemane garden.

In front of the high altar is a flat outcrop of rock, which a long Christian tradition identifies as the Rock of Agony where Jesus prayed.

There is a large mosaic in each of the three apses. From left to right, they represent The Kiss of Judas, Christ in Agony being Consoled by an Angel, and The Arrest of Jesus.


Many nations contributed

The basilica is called the Church of All Nations because many countries contributed to the cost of construction.

National symbols of 12 donors — Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, England, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Spain and the United States of America — 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 wreath is in the form of a crown of thorns with olive branches. A pair of thorn birds in front of a Communion chalice symbolise souls who wish to share the cup of Christ’s Passion. Two silver doves are depicted as sacrificial victims caught in agony in the thorns.

Original mosaic floor discovered

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 decided to copy this 4th-century mosaic design in the floor of the modern church, to suggest a spiritual continuity throughout the ages of faith.

Church of All Nations

Triangular mosaic on facade of Church of All Nations (Seetheholyland.net)

On the façade of the Church of All Nations, the triangular area over the great portal displays a much-photographed mosaic.

Christ is depicted as the mediator between God and mankind, on whose behalf he gives his very heart which an angel is shown receiving into his hands.

On Christ’s left, a throng of lowly people, in tears, look to him with confidence. On his right, a group of the powerful and wise acknowledge the shortcomings of their might and learning.

On the summit of the façade stand two stags on either side of a cross. Below the mosaic, statues of the four Evangelists are separated by three arches.

Related site:


In Scripture:

Jesus prays in Gethsemane: Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46; Mark 32-42

Jesus is arrested: Matthew 26:47-56; Mark 14:43-50; Luke 22:47-53; John 18:1-12


Administered by: Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land

Tel.: 972-2-6266444

Open: 8am-noon, 2-6pm (5pm Oct-Mar)



Bar-Am, Aviva: Beyond the Walls: Churches of Jerusalem (Ahva Press, 1998)
Gonen, Rivka: Biblical Holy Places: An illustrated guide (Collier Macmillan, 1987)
Maier, Paul L. (trans.): Josephus: The Essential Writings (Kregel Publications, 1988)
Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome: The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 (Oxford University Press, 2005)
Dillon, Edward: “The Sanctuaries at Gethsemane”, Holy Land, spring 1998
Storme, Albert: Gethsemane (Franciscan Printing Press, 1970)
Wareham, Norman, and Gill, Jill: Every Pilgrim’s Guide to the Holy Land (Canterbury Press, 1996)


External links

Gethsemane (Custodia Terrae Sanctae)
The Church of All Nations panorama (Jesus in Jerusalem)
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