The church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu
The church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu is hidden off the road on Mount Zion.
Gallicantu means the Cock’s crow !
In this short article, let me explain to you the origins of this weird name.
It is actually related to the history of the site
Today this church is located just outside the city walls but in the time of Jesus, all of Mount Zion was located within the walls .
According to tradition, it was here that the High Priest of the Temple lived.
His name was Cayaphas. In the New Testament we are told that Cayaphas ordered the arrest of Jesus and had him imprisoned in his house the night following his arrest.
Peter followed his arrested friend and hid in the bushes close to the house. A maid came out and asked him if he was a friend of the man who was kept imprisoned inside. Peter denied three times in a row out of fear to be arrested too.
After he denied for the third time he heard a cock crowing.
This gave him a huge shock because earlier Jesus had predicted Peter was going to deny knowing him and that a cock was going to grow after this.
When Jesus had told him that , Peter said that he would never ever deny knowing Jesus, but when he realized Jesus prediction came out he became very stressed and realized all the other predictions would happen also. One of them was the future death of Jesus….
When we visit the site, there is a religious and historical meaning to it.
First of all the church is built against the slope of Mount Zion and has three levels, with a different church at each level. At the very bottom, under the lowest church we discover cellars cut out of the bedrock, maybe the place where Jesus was imprisoned and questioned.
The Augustinian monks of Assumption, that own the site and live in the monastery next to the church, excavated the land in and around the church and found a ritual bath ( a Mikveh ) a huge complex for grinding wheat and olives as well as a long stepped street that passed by the house of Cayaphas.
If indeed Jesus was imprisoned here, he definitely walked on this street a few times.
A great model of Jerusalem in the 6th century is located next to the church and here we discover that in this period, Mount Zion was still within the city walls and we can see the many churches and Arc of Triumphs that were built in Jerusalem in that time. All of these churches and monuments were later destroyed by the Persians and the Muslims .
And last but not least, there is a great lookout from where you have a unique view over the Old City, Mount of Olives and the dramatic Hinom valley. Let me keep the stories if this valley as a cliffhanger for a visit when I guide you.