Church of St. Peter in Jaffa
Jaffa is a charming fishing port adjacent to Tel Aviv. The most distinctive and iconic feature of the city is arguably the steeple of the Church of St. Peter, which, for more than 100 years, was the first glimpse pilgrims traveling by sea caught of the Holy Land. It is by far the tallest and most notable building in Old Jaffa, which means that like their predecessors, contemporary pilgrims traveling by bus across Israel are likely to know they've arrived in Jaffa when they see it.
Built in the 17th century over the ruins of a medieval fortress, the Franciscan church here was destroyed more than once in the 18th century. The current building was dedicated in 1894. Its interior design was meant to mimic a European cathedral with stained glass windows, marble walls and high ceilings. Note the four panels that illustrate episodes in the life of St. Peter, including washing the feet at the Last Supper, giving the keys, the miraculous fish and the transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor.
Look for the artistic renderings of Tabitha, St. Francis of Assisi and the Immaculate Conception. Other images in the stained glass windows depict Spanish saints. Take note of the pulpit that is carved to resemble a tree, and don’t miss the massive painting of Peter's visitation by an angel that hangs over the altar.
The church and its name are connected to the narratives in the Acts of the Apostles where St. Peter restored Tabitha, a follower of Jesus, to life. There is also a tradition that Napoleon Bonaparte was hosted in one of the rooms in the church when he visited Jaffa in 1799.
The Church of St. Peter is still a functioning church, with daily Mass held in English, Spanish, Polish and Hebrew.