The church bares its name from the Latin word “Gallicantu,” meaning cock’s-crow in reference to the Gospel, “...before the cock crows twice.” (Mark 14:30). A church was first built during the Byzantine era in 457 AD, and later destroyed by the caliph Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah in 1010. In 1102 a chapel was rebuilt by Crusaders and given its present name. After the fall of Jerusalem the chapel lay in ruins and was not reconstructed until 1931.
The site of the church is also believe to be where the High Priest Caiapha’s palace was located. According to some of the first Pilgrim groups to the Holy Land, in the Itinerarium Burdigalense, "...going up from the Pool of Siloe to Mount Zion one would come across the House of the Priest Caiaphas." Beneath the church there’s a dungeon believed to be the cell where Jesus was detained the night of his arrest from the Garden of Gethsemane.
The church is constructed on 4 different levels — the dungeon, guardroom, middle church and upper church. The Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu design and art are colorful, contemporary, as well as featuring ancient works. The entrance of the church is situated from a parking lot above the main level of the church. In the courtyard a statue depicts the denial including it’s main participants; the cock, the women who questioned Peter, and the Roman soldier to whom Peter denied knowing Jesus. The inscription of the statue includes the Scripture passage; But he denied him, saying "Woman, I know him not"! (Luke 22:57).
The entrance itself is flanked by iron doors covered with biblical bas reliefs. To the right are two Byzantine-era mosaics found during excavations at the church, these were most likely part of the floor of the fifth-century shrine. The main sanctuary contains large, multi-colored mosaics figures from the New Testament. Facing the entrance is a bound Jesus being questioned in the house of Caiaphas; to the right, Jesus and the disciples are shown at the Last Supper; to the left, Peter is depicted in ancient papal dress as the first pope.
Downstairs, in the middle church, icons above the altars depict St Peter’s denial, his repentance and his reconciliation with Christ on the shore of the Sea of Galilee after the Resurrection. Many of the inscriptions in the Church of St Peter in Gallicantu are in French, due to the order of the Catholic Assumptionists being French.