Tale of the Tel: Caiaphas’ House and the Sacred Pit

On the slope of Mt. Zion is the St. Peter in Gallicantu Church. For centuries, this church was believed to be the location of the house of the High Priest, Caiaphas, at the time of Jesus captivity. This, therefore, would also be the site where Peter denied Jesus. Gallicantu in Latin means “rooster crows.” (See: Before the Rooster Crows€. Do we give Peter a bad rap? ) This is one of two sites in Jerusalem identified as potential for Caiaphas’ house. Recent archaeological evidence gives strong support to the Mt. Zion site.

The building located on this site had a footprint of roughly 6,500 sq. ft., very large for a house at this time. The house of the high priest would have served much like the White House in Washington, D.C. does today. It would not only have been living quarters but as a seat of governance. There were, according to evidence found via excavation, large meeting rooms and what could have been administrative offices. It is believed that the Sanhedrin would have met here frequently.

Steps leading up to the site:

Jesus was led up these steps by the Temple guards:

This then would have been where Annas and Caiaphas would have questioned Jesus on Good Friday morning. Between the interrogations by Annas and Caiaphas and the verdict by the Sanhedrin, Jesus was confined in a dry cistern. Like much of Mt. Zion, the limestone rock under the site is crisscrossed with natural caves that were used for storage and cisterns.

A prisoner was often detained by tying a rope around his chest and lowering him into a pit or cistern until his toes just touched the floors. Most of the prisoner’s weight would still have born by the rope causing tremendous pain. The pit would have been pitch dark. (During these times there was no such thing as “cruel and unusual punishment” or “innocent until proven guilty”.) As was shown throughout Jesus captivity, His captors did all that they could to humiliate Him and cause maximum pain.

The cistern is located in the floor of a room that could easily have been used for Jesus interrogation. It is open to visitors today and a tunnel has been dug so that visitors can actually enter the pit. It is known as the “Sacred Pit.”

The Sacred Pit:

The Sanhedrin could not pass their judgment until daybreak. Throughout the night, Peter waited in the courtyard where three times he denied Jesus. The third time was just at daybreak, the time that “the rooster crowed.” Thus the name of the church – “Gallicantu.”

It is likely that Peter and Paul were brought to this same house for trial after Pentecost. They may well have been held in the same pit.

Psalm 88

O LORD, God of my salvation, I cry out to you by day. I come to you at night.
Now hear my prayer; listen to my cry.
For my life is full of troubles, and death draws near.
I am as good as dead, like a strong man with no strength left.
They have left me among the dead, and I lie like a corpse in a grave. I am forgotten, cut off from your care.
You have thrown me into the lowest pit, into the darkest depths.
Your anger weighs me down; with wave after wave you have engulfed me. Interlude
You have driven my friends away by making me repulsive to them. I am in a trap with no way of escape.
My eyes are blinded by my tears. Each day I beg for your help, O LORD; I lift my hands to you for mercy.
Are your wonderful deeds of any use to the dead? Do the dead rise up and praise you? Interlude
Can those in the grave declare your unfailing love? Can they proclaim your faithfulness in the place of destruction?
Can the darkness speak of your wonderful deeds? Can anyone in the land of forgetfulness talk about your righteousness?
O LORD, I cry out to you. I will keep on pleading day by day.
O LORD, why do you reject me? Why do you turn your face from me?
I have been sick and close to death since my youth. I stand helpless and desperate before your terrors.
Your fierce anger has overwhelmed me. Your terrors have paralyzed me.
They swirl around me like floodwaters all day long. They have engulfed me completely.
You have taken away my companions and loved ones. Darkness is my closest friend.



Alive in The Word

What other peope in the Bible were put into pits, wells or cisterns?

About aliveintheword

Missouri, USA Married to Marty, 45 years 2 sons (with 2 daughers-in-law) and 2 granddaughters Life dedicated to serving Jesus Christ and delivering the Good News
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2 Responses to Tale of the Tel: Caiaphas’ House and the Sacred Pit

  1. ptl2010 says:

    Recently, my sister who was in a bout of hallucinations for two days due to drugs which were prescribed for her during a medical prcocedure, reflected similar dark places when she felt entirely alone and rejected, scenes that she passed through when in fear and agony she cried pleadingly to the Lord for deliverance as in Psalm 88. Thankfully it was a hallucination and she said she was chased, kidnapped and jeered for her faith. It was then the verses, promises which were from the Word of God which she had memorized over the years were uttered during that time as if the Spirit of God raised His standard against the enemy. On her recovery she did not remember the verses she uttered, she did remember some aspects of the time she was in great fear, but do not remember quoting verses which we her loved ones heard her call out in fear one after anaother to the Lord for deliverance. May the Lord help us indeed.

    Yes, when darkness comes and we are put in difficult places, it is only on the Word of God we shall be able to stand and His Presence that will keep us. No one, nothing will be able to deliver us from the evil one but the Lord and His Word. This blog I see as a clarion call for believers to begin preparing for the days ahead… are we prepared to really stand up for the Word? Is the Word and our faith worth standing up for? If yes, let us put in whole-hearted commitment to know, to love, to hide God’s Word in our hearts. So that no man can take the Word of God from us even when they take the written Word from us, for we will have it written on our hearts and our minds. Amen.

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