A short account of St. Peter in Galicantu Church, given by your Israel & Jerusalem private tour guide
St. Peter in Galicantu (English – rooster chanting) is a beautiful church, situated on the slopes of Mt. Zion, facing the City of David on one side and the Jewish Quarter on the other side. Catholic tradition states that this place served as the location of the first trial of Jesus, which took place before the High Priest of the Temple, Caiaphas.
“And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.” (Matthew 26:75)
What does the book tell us?
The story in the Gospels tells us that the High Priest and the Jewish council plotted against Jesus, trying to get rid of him. After the Last Supper, Jesus was arrested in Gethsemane (after his disciple, Judas, identified him by a kiss), and was brought in front of the High Priest, Caiaphas. Before all of this happened, at the Last Supper, “Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.” (Luke 22: 33-34)
Early Christianity identified this site as the place of the house of Caiaphas, and in the 5th century CE, the first church was built here. Destroyed by the Persian invasion in the 7th century, it was rebuilt, and then renovated by the Crusaders (12th century). Destroyed again, the church stood in ruins until the 20th century, when it was given to the French Catholic Order of the Assumption in 1924. The Order built the current church that stands today.
What can we see in the church?
The building holds two churches. The upper one is bigger and more beautiful, and is dedicated to Jesus’ trial. The lower church is a more intimate chapel, and is dedicated to Peter’s denial and repentance.
Under the building, dug into the limestone rock, there are two levels of grottos, or crypts. One of them looks like a set of cells, and is referred to as Jesus’ place of imprisonment. However, it is more likely that these are storage rooms from either the Second Temple period, or even the late Roman period.
On a lower level, there is another grotto, which looks like a cistern. An earlier version of it was shallow, and has the appearance of a Jewish ritual bath (mikvah). During later periods, the grotto was deepened. In the backyard of the church, there are excavations which show ruins, mainly from the Byzantine period, including a staircase leading down to the valley and the area of the City of David. Local tradition says these are the steps on which Jesus was led after he was arrested.