History of the place

Four different churches were constructed in Saint-Peter in Gallicantu.

The land of Saint-Peter in Gallicantu was acquired in 1884 by the Count Amédée de Piellat, born in Vienne (Isère, France) in 1852 and deceased in Jerusalem in 1925 (buried in the vault of Saint-Peter). Builder and benefactor of the French Saint-Louis hospital, he bought the neighboring land to build the Notre-Dame de France hotel complex, and was the real estate agent for several congregations.

During the first pilgrimage of 1882 organized by the Assumptionists, bringing a thousand pilgrims, the Franciscan Brother Liévin de Hamme showed to the Count, on the slopes of Mount Sion, a cave that served as a stable for a donkey. This cave, as he explained, was the one where Saint Peter came to cry over his denial. Hoping to find Saint-Peter’s church, the Count of Piellat bought the land. As the excavations around the cave did not reveal any trace of the church, the Count gave the land to the Assumptionists in 1887 so they can establish a farm to feed the pilgrims of Notre-Dame de France, which was already being built.

While planting olive trees and vines, the religious of Notre-Dame de France started to conduct soil surveys, under the supervision of Father Joseph Germer-Durand (see picture above). The latter kept a journal of the excavations from October 1888 to December 1911 (four books compiling 329 pages of records). By extending the excavations northwards, from the cave of Brother Liévin, the deep pit and some remains of the ancient churches were uncovered.

Journals of the excavations written by Father Germer-Durand

These researches enabled to discover that four churches had been constructed on this potential Caiapha’s palace area.

First church

It was built between 457 and 460, probably by the Empress Eudokia. Damaged in 529 during the rebellion of the Samaritans, it was destructed in 614 by the Persians. The Empress Eudokia also built the Siloam and Saint John the Baptist’s churches, inside the ramparts she restored, and the Saint-Stephen’s church, outside the walls.

Foundations of the Byzantine church

Second church

Erected around 628, most likely by the Abbot Modeste from the Saint-Theodose monastery, it was destroyed in 1009 by the Caliph Hakim.

Third church

Built in 1102 by the Crusaders, it was ruined in 1219 and replaced by an oratory, also destructed between 1293 and 1335.

Fourth church

It was constructed between 1920 and 1930 by Assumptionist Father Etienne Boubet, who was both the architect and decorator of the project. Damaged during the 1948 war, it was repaired but truly restored between 1994 and 1997 by Father Robert Fortin, Superior, and Samir Kandah, architect.