The church was built in 1931 on the slopes of Mt. Zion, at the site of the palace of Caiaphas the high priest. There is archaeological evidence that this is the spot where Jesus was kept and tried before his trial before Pontius Pilate, and more evidence of prison cells.
In addition, this church is commemorated as the spot where Peter thrice denied Jesus, and it was built in order to remember that occurrence. Gallicantu means “cock crow” as Peter denied Jesus three times before the cock crowed at dawn. The image of the golden rooster on a black cross on the rooftop tower further explores this history (Matthew 26:69-75).
The church has multiple levels, and at places ruins of the original 5th century Byzantine basilica are obvious. There is a mixture of architectural styles and modern mixed with ancient art.
The first level is entered through carved double doors depicting the Last Supper where Jesus foresaw Peter denying knowing him. This event happened in what is now the courtyard. The courtyard also holds a statue of Peter’s denials (Luke 22:57).
In Mark 14: 26-72, there is the accounting of Peter’s denial of Christ as Jesus affirmed that he was the son of God in response to the high priests’ inquiries.
There is also a large painting of Jesus’ trial by Jewish leaders. There is another stone chapel on the middle level, and the dungeon on the lower level.
Then, descent into the dungeon room (pit) where Jesus was held is extremely powerful for visitors. The caves are cut into the rock and were quite common in Jesus’ time. Families used the rock caves for cisterns, cellars and baths during Roman times.
Pilgrims and tour groups regularly pray in this pit, and report a visceral feeling while in the pit of the Lord. Standing in the spot where Jesus was held, some feel the fear, the power, the faith, and the scriptures.
Visitors can walk the same step that Jesus walked outside, making this an incredible experience for believers. The stone steps were the route under which Jesus was brought by guards to the High Priest’s abode. They head down to the Valley of Kidron.
Another item of interest for visitors is the Byzantine city model located on the north side of the church. There are also ongoing excavations in the area of ancient structures.