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.
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?