The fabulous Saint Peter in-Gallicantu Church is built in the slopes of mount Zion. According to tradition, this was the place of the palace of high priest Caiaphas. Its name is given after the story of Peter’s triple denial of Christ and the cock crowing twice.
The fabulous Saint-Peter-in-Gallicantu Church is a historic church located on the eastern slope of Mount Zion in Jerusalem. The church is believed to be built on the site of the palace of high priest Caiaphas. This is where Jesus was held in custody on the night of his betrayal, and where Peter denied knowing Jesus three times before the rooster crowed twice (“Gallicantu” means “cock’s crow” in Latin).
Mark 14: 72: “And the second time the cock crew. And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. And when he thought thereon, he wept”.
The church was built in 1931 by the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, on the ruins of an earlier Byzantine church. The architectural style of the church is a mix of Gothic and Romanesque styles.
The church contains several interesting features, including an underground chamber believed to have been a prison cell where Jesus was held, a series of steps believed to have been the staircase that led to the house of the High Priest, and a chapel dedicated to Saint Peter and his denial of Jesus.
The Gallicantu Church is an important site for Christian pilgrims visiting Jerusalem, and it is open to visitors for daily tours and worship services.
The Church is located on the eastern slopes of Mount Zion, as seen here on the bottom right side.
History of the place:
A Byzantine church was built in 457AD. It was destroyed in 1010, and rebuilt by the Crusaders in 1102 (who renamed it to the present name). The church was in ruins again in 1320, and rebuilt in 1931.
(a) The exterior
The Church is located on the eastern slopes of Mount Zion. The entrance to the church, seen below, is from a parking lot which is located above the church. Below the church is a steep slope that drops towards the Kidron valley, south east to the old city.
Click on the photos to view in higher resolution…
In the court yard of the church is a statue that describes the events (see Mark 14) of the denial of Jesus by Peter, the cock (seen on the top), the maid, and the Roman soldier. The inscription reads parts from from Luke 22: 57: “But he denied him, saying: Woman, I know him not”.
This is the view of the interior of the lower church, which some of its parts are cut into the rock.
One of the paintings in the lower church – the denying St Peter, the handcuffed Jesus, and the cock. The inscription reads parts from from Luke 22: 57: “But he denied him, saying: Woman, I know him not”.
(c) The dungeon & pits
On the basement of the church is an array of caves. These were cut into the rock under the houses of the ancient city. According to the tradition, these caves included a jail where Jesus was held after his arrest. However, these underground caves were normal in many of the Roman-era houses, and served as cellars, water cisterns, and baths.
In the photo below – several engraved Byzantine crosses are seen when looking down into the sacred pit. On the walls below there are additional signs of crosses and a praying figure.
These are the caves under the church, dated to the 2nd temple period.
A view of the lower caves and the sacred pit, where Jesus was believed to be held in custody, as well as Peter and John after his resurrection (as per Acts 5). The lower room is a place where visitors stand and pray.
This is the plan of the pits.
On the north side of the church is an ancient stepped stone paved street , on which you can walk down towards the valley of Kidron. A section of 100m were uncovered here, running west to east, with remains of Roman and Byzantine periods. This stepped way may have led down to the Byzantine church of the Shiloah pool. The stepped street may have also served as a passage from the upper city to the lower city during the second temple period.
(e) Excavations in the yard
A stepped paved street crosses another north-south paved street, where remains of buildings, covered channels and caves were also unearthed. All around the yard of the church are many of the ancient buildings from the different periods in Jerusalem’s history.
Excavations, conducted in 1888 by GermerDuran, revealed the stepped road, the Byzantine church, Byzantine roads and houses, a rock-hewn bath house, and parts of the aqueduct.
(f) Byzantine City Model
On the north side of the church is a model of the Byzantine city. In the photo below you can see the Lion’s gate in the bottom center, the temple mount on its left side, and via Dolorosa behind it. In the center is the church of the Holy Sepulcher, located on the Cardo Maximus – Jerusalem’s main north-south road (in that web page you can see another view of this model).
Note that in the background of the model you can see some of the excavations in the yard of the church.
(a) Mark 14: 26-72:
This text describes the story of Peters’ triple denial of Christ and the cock crowing twice. The story is as follows: Jesus was sitting with his disciples before his arrest, and doubted their loyalty. Peter declared that he will not be among them, but Jesus predicted that within that night, even before the 2nd crow of the cock, Peter will deny him 3 times. This is exactly what has happened, as Peter found out himself.
“And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives. And Jesus saith unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.
But after that I am risen, I will go before you into Galilee. But Peter said unto him, Although all shall be offended, yet will not I”. “And Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. But he spake the more vehemently, If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise. Likewise also said they all”.
“And they led Jesus away to the high priest: and with him were assembled all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes. And Peter followed him afar off, even into the palace of the high priest: and he sat with the servants, and warmed himself at the fire. And the chief priests and all the council sought for witness against Jesus to put him to death; and found none”.
The cock on top of the Gallicantu church
“And the high priest stood up in the midst, and asked Jesus, saying, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee? But he held his peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witnesses? Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? And they all condemned him to be guilty of death. And some began to spit on him, and to cover his face, and to buffet him, and to say unto him, Prophesy: and the servants did strike him with the palms of their hands. And as Peter was beneath in the palace, there cometh one of the maids of the high priest: And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked upon him, and said, And thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth. But he denied, saying, I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest. And he went out into the porch; and the cock crew. And a maid saw him again, and began to say to them that stood by, This is one of them. And he denied it again. And a little after, they that stood by said again to Peter, Surely thou art one of them: for thou art a Galilaean, and thy speech agreeth thereto. But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak.
And the second time the cock crew. And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. And when he thought thereon, he wept”.
“After the Supper, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron valley”
(b) Luke 27: 34-61
This is another version of the story of the triple denial and the cock’s crow:
“And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me. And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing. Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end. And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough. And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him. And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation. And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.
And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow, And said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. And while he yet spake, behold a multitude, and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and drew near unto Jesus to kiss him. But Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss? When they which were about him saw what would follow, they said unto him, Lord, shall we smite with the sword? And one of them smote the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear. And Jesus answered and said, Suffer ye thus far. And he touched his ear, and healed him. Then Jesus said unto the chief priests, and captains of the temple, and the elders, which were come to him, Be ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and staves? When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness. Then took they him, and led him, and brought him into the high priest’s house. And Peter followed afar off. And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them. But a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire, and earnestly looked upon him, and said, This man was also with him. And he denied him, saying, Woman, I know him not.
And after a little while another saw him, and said, Thou art also of them. And Peter said, Man, I am not. And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with him: for he is a Galilaean. And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew. And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice”.
“Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest”
(c) Acts 5: 19-42
This text tells about the imprisonment of Peter and John after the resurrection. According to the Church, the sacred dungeon (the pit) was under the house of the high priest.
“But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life. And when they heard that, they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught. But the high priest came, and they that were with him, and called the council together, and all the senate of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. But when the officers came, and found them not in the prison, they returned and told, Saying, The prison truly found we shut with all safety, and the keepers standing without before the doors: but when we had opened, we found no man within. Now when the high priest and the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these things, they doubted of them whereunto this would grow. Then came one and told them, saying, Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people. Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them without violence: for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned. And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him. When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them. Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space; And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men. For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought. After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed. And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God. And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ”.
Etymology (behind the name):
- Gallicantu – From Latin: Gallus – cock; Cantu – crow, or “cock’s crow”. This is after the story in Mark & Luke on the arrest of Jesus (see below).
Gethsemane – Greek: of the Hebrew phrase for “oil press” (Gat Shemanim).
- Mount Zion – overview
- St. Peter – info page on Peter
- Gath Shemanim – Basilica of Agony – Gethsemane in Mt. Olives
BibleWalks.com – walk with us through the sites of the Holy Land
This page was last updated on Apr 7, 2023 (new overview)