By Clyde Hughes Dec. 21,2020 (UPI) — The Israel Antiquities Authority said Monday it has uncovered remains from the Second Temple period during an excavation at Jerusalem’s Garden of Gethsemane Church, which date to the era of Jesus Christ.

Archaeologists said they unearthed a Jewish ritual bath and remains from a church dating back to Byzantine times 1,500 years ago. The IAA said scholars from the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum assisted in the excavation. “Gethsemane is one of the most important sanctuaries in the Holy Land, because in this place the tradition remembers the confident prayer of Jesus and his betrayal and because every year millions of pilgrims visit and pray in this place,” Father Francesco Patton, Custos of the Holy Land, said in a statement. “Even the latest excavations conducted on this site have confirmed the antiquity of the Christian memory and tradition linked to the place, and this is very important for us and for the spiritual meaning connected with the archaeological findings.” The Custos of the Holy Land participated in the presentation of the excavation’s findings on Monday.

The Jewish ritual bath found at the site dates from when Jesus was present in Jerusalem, according to Christian belief. Byzantine church remains were uncovered in the Kidron Valley at the foot of the Gethsemane Church. The Church of Gethsemane is located at the foot of the famous Mount of Olives and is one of Christianity’s most important churches. It was built on the spot where Christian tradition holds that Jesus was betrayed, and pilgrims from around the world visit the site every year. Jesus used to pray on Mount of Olives and was there on the night before the crucifixion, according to Christian faith. “The discovery of the ritual bath probably confirms the place’s ancient name, Gethsemane,” Amit Re’em, Jerusalem district archaeologist for the Israel Antiquities Authority, said.

“Most ritual baths from the Second Temple period have been found in private homes and public buildings, but some have been discovered near agricultural installations and tombs, in which case the ritual bath is located in the open.”