The olive trees of Gethsemane: the latest findings

In 2009 an investigation was undertaken on the state of health of the ancient olive trees of the sacred Garden. The results of the investigation, made public in 2012, also shed light on the highly debated subject of the age of the plants.

The research was carried out by a team of experts and researchers from the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR), in conjunction with a number of Italian universities, coordinated by Professors Giovanni Gianfrate and Antonio Cimato.

The studies concluded that, apart from being in very good health, the plants were approximately 900 years old, meaning that the aerial part of the olive trees, their trunks and foliage, date from the Crusader period. But the most intriguing discovery came from DNA analysis: the eight olive trees, in fact, exhibit an identical genetic profile, i.e., they belong to the same “genotype”, that of a single tree from which branches of varying thicknesses were taken to be planted in the garden.

It thus seems likely that, in addition to building the church, the Crusaders renovated the garden seeking to “multiply”, within a sacred area, a single tree, perhaps because it was ancient and venerated with regard to Jesus' prayer in Gethsemane, in the same manner in which today the eight olive trees are venerated.

Due to these new findings the sacredness of the Garden has been reinforced: the olive trees are indeed witnesses of the faith rooted in the Christian community of Jerusalem that, together with countless pilgrims, never tires of announcing the Resurrection of Christ to the entire world.