Church of Saint Peter: Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept. (Mark 14:72)
Hours: Monday-Saturday 8:30am to 11:45am, 2pm to 5pm
Phone: +972 2 673 1739
The Church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu is a gorgeous Roman Catholic Church built on the eastern slopes of Mount Zion, in the Village of Silwan. According to religious tradition the Church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu marks the past location of the High Priest Caiaphas’ house. Jesus was brought to the home of Caiaphas to be held captive after his arrest. The word gallicantu means “cock’s crow.” Though the Church of Saint Peter is built on the previous location where Caiaphas once lived, it was built in memory of Peter’s triple denial of Jesus when the cock crowed two times.
The entrance to this magnificent church is from the parking lot above it. Below the church is a steep slope leading to the Kidron Valley and south east to the Old City Jerusalem. In the expansive courtyard stands a statue describing the Mark 14 denial of Jesus by Peter. There are cast images of a Roman soldier, Peter, a small maid and a rooster (cock).
The interior of the Church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu is just as impressive as its stately exterior. The lower portions of the interior have been cut into the existing rock. The gold laminated paintings again recount the tale of Peter’s denial of Jesus. Further down, below the first level are a series of caves cut into the rock. These ran under the homes in ancient Jerusalem. According the Christian tradition one of these caves held Jesus as he awaiting his trial and crucifixion. However, records state that these subterranean compartments were quite common in Roman-era houses and were used as cisterns, storage or baths. The lower caves have been reliably dated to the second temple period. The specific cave thought to have been Jesus’ holding cell is called the “Sacred Pit.”
Outside the Church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu on the north side there is an ancient stair case. Visitors can descend these steep steps toward the Valley of Kidron. This walkway is thought to have been the passage way from the lower city to the upper city during the first temple period. All around the courtyard of this impressive church are remnants of ancient buildings. An excavation of the site revealed steps to a Byzantine church, Byzantine houses, an aqueduct and bath houses hewn from rock. There is also a model of the ancient Byzantine city to give visitors a better idea of what it looked like in its prime.
A Byzantine church was erected in 457 AD to remember Peter’s repentance. The Muslims, however, destroyed the church in 1010. Then, in the 1102 Crusaders rebuilt the sacred structure and gave it the name Church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu. After the fall of Jerusalem, the church fell into disrepair. In 1931 efforts were made to rebuild this one-of-a-kind church. Now there is a giant gold rooster on top of the sanctuary roof to remind visitors of the event commemorated by this structure.