Saint Peter in Gallicantu is a Roman Catholic church located on the eastern slope of Mount Zion, just outside the Old (walled) City of Jerusalem in the place of House of High Priest Caiaphas.

According to the Pilgrim of Bordeaux in his Itinerarium Burdigalense, "...going up from the Pool of Siloe to Mount Zion one would come across the House of the Priest Caiaphas."


True versus False Witness - Mark 14:53–72

For the third time in chap. 14 Mark applies the sandwich technique. The theme of the present sandwich is bearing witness under persecution. Until this point in the Gospel of Mark the theme of witness has played virtually no role (only at 1:44; 6:11; 10:19; 13:9), but now within nine verses the word “witness” occurs seven times in various forms.71 Even when the word is absent the theme is present. The conspicuous introduction of witnessing in the trial scene reveals that for Mark a true testimony to Jesus, as Jesus has reminded disciples in the passion predictions (8:31; 9:31; 10:33–34), is rendered in the context of suffering, persecution, and the cross. The courage and faithfulness of Jesus within such a context is contrasted to false witness and denial. The disciples are again the foil, but it is no longer Judas (14:1–11) or the disciples in general (14:17–31), but the chief apostle, Peter, whose story in the courtyard of the high priest (vv. 53–54, 66–72) flanks the trial of Jesus before the Sanhedrin (vv. 55–65). As disciples are haled “before councils and kings as witnesses to them” (13:9), the literary juxtaposition of Jesus and Peter in the sandwich creates a sermon without words on the meaning of bearing witness under persecution.

54. The trial scene opens with Peter following Jesus “at a distance” into the courtyard of the high priest (John 18:15). The gap in Peter’s discipleship does not comport well with his boast a short while earlier to die with Jesus if necessary (14:31). His distance already foreshadows his   denial, between which Mark sets the story of Jesus’ interrogation by the Sanhedrin. How awkward Peter looks in the courtyard of the high priest, trying to mingle with the henchmen who probably arrested Jesus and who will presently mock and beat him (Gk. hypēretēs; vv. 54, 65; NIV, “guards”). Peter has forsaken a discipleship of costly following (8:34) for one of safe observation.

James R. Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark, PNTC; Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 441-442.

53, 55. Between Peter’s entrance into the courtyard (v. 54) and his denial (vv. 66–72), Mark narrates the trial of Jesus before the Sanhedrin. Following his arrest, Jesus is taken immediately to the high priest, whom John 18:13–14 identifies as Caiaphas, the high priest who presided over the Sanhedrin from A.D. 18 to 36, and the son-in-law of the powerful high priest, Annas. The customary meeting place of the Sanhedrin was the Chamber of Hewn Stone, north of the temple sanctuary, adjacent to the Court of Israel (m. Sanh. 11:2). The hearing recorded by Mark does not take place there, however, but at the villa of the high priest. According to tradition, Caiaphas’s house lay a kilometer to the southwest of Gethsemane on the slopes of Mt. Zion. The site is commemorated today by the church of St. Peter in Gallicantu (Cockcrow). Continued excavations have unearthed beneath the church a series of cisterns and grottos that date to the Herodian period (37 B.C.-A.D. 70). These rock-hewn pits would have offered maximum security for the brief internment of prisoners. Early in the fourth century the anonymous Pilgrim of Bordeaux identified the site as “the house of the High Priest Caiaphas, where the pillars to which Jesus was bound and whipped are still evident.”72 The dating of the grottos and the above testimony suggest that St. Peter in Gallicantu commemorates the site where Jesus was interrogated by Caiaphas.
Jesus was arraigned before “the chief priests, elders and teachers of the law” (v. 53), “the whole Sanhedrin” (v. 55), according to Mark. Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin is problematic, for the proceedings described by Mark grossly violate Jewish jurisprudence as stipulated in the Mishnah. The Sanhedrin, the chief governing body of the Jews, consisted of seventy-one members. Since observant Jews refused to honor Gentile Roman hegemony in Palestine, and since Roman administrators were shrewd enough to acknowledge this, a buffer organization of Jewish leaders was established who were willing to cooperate with Rome. This supreme indigenous tribunal mediated between the Jewish populace and Roman occupation, and possessed freedom of jurisdiction in religious matters and partial freedom in political matters, though it is doubtful whether it possessed the right of capital punishment (see John 18:31–32).

James R. Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark, PNTC; Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 442.

The Palace of the High Priest.

This palace, in which the proceedings against Jesus (see TRIAL OF JESUS) took place (Mt 26:58; Mk 14:54; cf. Lk 22:54), stood on the hill west of the city according to Josephus (J.W. 2.426). Late and secondary is the local tradition associated with the Armenian Church of the Redeemer, which lies only forty meters north of the site of the Last Supper (ELS 566ff.). Reports of early Byzantine pilgrims (ELS 562ff.), which have some archeological support, point to the area of the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu (GBL III.1109-10). This location on the west edge of modern Mount Zion poses no problems for the authenticity of the local tradition about the room where the Last Supper was held. The impressive tiered street passing nearby, dating to NT times and leading toward the area of Jerusalem inhabited by Essenes, was divided by mounds to preserve ritual purity despite use by persons of different grades of purity (cf. Ep. Arist. 106). The Sanhedrin’s official convening site was at that time probably outside the Temple near the modern square in front of the Wailing Wall.


Traditional Mount Zion. Mount Zion is the hill on Jerusalem’s western ridge and is dominated by the Dormition Abbey church and bell tower.

This, together with the ritual significance of the spring of Gihon at the foot of Mount Zion (cf. Gen 2:13; 1 Kings 1:33, 38, 45; 2 Chron 32:30; 33:14), inspires the river imagery of the Psalms (Ps 46:4; 74:13–15) that is associated with Zion and temple. It is this river imagery that once again erupts in Ezekiel’s vision of the eschatological …

“Adam,” Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, 11.

Remember your congregation, which you acquired long ago, which you redeemed to be the tribe of your heritage. Remember Mount Zion, where you came to dwell.

Psalms 74:2 NRSV


Important Digs

The Spring House, Eli Shukron In 1995, Ronny Reich and Eli Shukron began to excavate near the Gihon Spring and forever changed our understanding of Ancient Jerusalem.

The Shiloah Pool and the Second Temple Road , in 2004, Reich and Shukron began an excavation in the southern part of the City of David, at the site of the Second Temple period Shiloah Pool.

Givati Parking Lot - In 2007, Doron Ben-Ami and Yana Tchekhanovets began a comprehensive excavation in the Givati Parking Lot, located west of the entrance to the City of David.

Eli Shukron Since 2007 and Reich have been excavating the main water drainage tunnel of the city of Jerusalem from the Second Temple period, inside the Tyropoeon Valley.