St. Peter's Church served as a beacon for many centuries for pilgrims traveling by sea to the Holy Land because of its dominant location in Jaffa, and holds great significance to Christians traveling to the Holy Land today because the church is dedicated to St. Peter, one of the 12 disciples of Jesus. It was Simon whom Jesus renamed Peter, and said on to him “upon this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18).
St. Peter's Church belongs to the Franciscan Roman Catholic order, and commemorates specifically the visit and miracle of St. Peter in Jaffa; St. Peter came to Jaffa (Joppa) from Lydda to raise Tabitha (Dorcas) from the dead (Acts 9:36-43 ). While in Jaffa, the apostle stayed at the house of Simon the Tanner. St. Peter's Church marks the traditional site of Peter’s vision of the Great Sheet (Acts 10:9-16).
The church was built in the Ottoman period in 1654 over medieval fortress ruins, however the church was twice destroyed and twice rebuilt with the last current structure built between 1888 and 1894, and renovated as late as 1903. Featuring a tall brack facade, and a tall tower with church bells, St. Peter’s Church is the largest and most distinct building in Old Jaffa. Inside the church you’ll find similarities to cathedrals in Europe with high vaulted-ceilings, stained windows and marble walls. The four panels in the anterior of the church depict episodes from St. Peter lifetime; the miraculous catch of fishes, the giving of the keys, the Transfiguration of Christ on Mount Tabor and the Washing of the feet on the Last Supper. With the exception of depictions of Tabitha, Saint Francis of Assisi, and the Immaculate Conception, all of the other windows in the church feature Spanish Saints since the church was built by Spain.
Today you can visit the St. Peter's Church on your Christian Holy Land tour of Israel during visiting hours, entering from the Old Jaffa square. Masses are done in English, Spanish, Polish and Hebrew, and a schedule is available at the church, which is open to the public daily.