When the newly renovated galleries at the Israel Museum opened in July, visitors were treated to the first public viewing of a magnificent 12th-century fresco from the Gethsemane Courtyard in Jerusalem. The painting, which measures almost 20.5 feet long by 9 feet high, is the largest ever found in an Israel excavation.
The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), under the direction of Jerusalem region archaeologist Jon Seligman, conducted excavations in Nahal Kidron, next to the Garden of Gethsemane, in 1999. They uncovered several buildings dating to the 12th century, which were part of the Abbey of St. Mary of the Valley of Jehoshaphat. Although the famous Ayyubid conqueror Saladin had destroyed most of the abbey during his invasion of Jerusalem in 1187 A.D., the excavators found the painting in one of the buildings on a wall of the Monastery of Miriam, surprised by both the quality and the sheer size of the Crusader-period find.