Saint Catherine Monastery
saint catherine monastery


saint catherine monastery

Saint Catherine Monastery.

On the slopes of Mount Sinai, where Moses received the Ten Commandments from God, lies one of the oldest functioning monasteries in the world. Commonly known as Saint Catherine’s Monastery, its actual name is the “Sacred Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount Sinai”.

It was built by the order of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I (527–565 AD) in 548–565 in order to house the monks that had been living in the Sinai Peninsula since the 4th century AD. The eponymous Saint Catherine of Alexandria was martyred in the early 4th century AD.

The monastery bears her name because its monks discovered her incorrupt body on nearby Mount Saint Catherine in the 9th century AD, where it had been deposited by angels after her martyrdom.

 The monastery encompasses multiple structures, the most important of which is the Church of the Transfiguration of Christ the Savior, which itself contains nine smaller churches. One of these is the Church of the Burning Bush, from which God had spoken to the prophet Moses.
Saint Catherine Monastery also includes ten other churches, the monks’ accommodations, a refectory, an olive press, ossuaries, a Fatimid mosque from the 12th century AD, and a library that boasts rare books and6,000 manuscripts.

The Fatimid Mosque

Saint Catherine Monastery

The Fatimid mosque in Saint Catherine Monastery, built-in 500 AH/1106 AD during the reign of the Fatimid Caliph al-Amir bi-Ahkam Allah, was the fruit of the harmonious relationship between Muslims and Christians. The Fatimid Caliphate witnessed the peak of this relationship, and the caliphs of the period worked tirelessly to build mosques in sacred locations. The Fatimid mosque in Saint Catherine’s Monastery became a stop for pilgrims on their way to Mecca, many of whose writings can still be seen on its mihrab to this day.

The mosque lies in the north-western sector of Saint Catherine’s Monastery, opposite the Church of the Transfiguration of Christ the Savior, its principal church, such that its minaret stands side-by-side with the church’s steeple, in a perfect symbol of religious harmony. The mosque features several semi-circular vaults and three mihrabs. The mihrab is a semi-circular recess in the wall of a given mosque that indicates the qibla, the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca, which Muslims face during prayer. The principal mihrab is similar in its design to the one in the oldest section of al-Azhar mosque and has a beautiful minbar, or pulpit, one of only three complete surviving examples from the Fatimid Period.

The Library of Saint Catherine Monastery

The library of Saint Catherine’s Monastery, with its rare books and manuscripts, is one of the most important of all libraries attached to any monastery.

It is located in an old building to the south of the Church of the Transfiguration of Christ the Savior and contains around 6,000 manuscripts on various topics, including religion, history, geography, and philosophy, the oldest of which dates to the 4th century AD.

The library’s collection of manuscripts features many languages, including 2,319 in Greek, 600 in Arabic, 284 in Latin, and 86 in Georgian.

A project to conserve the library, completed in November 2017, brought to light a 5th–6th-century ADGreek medical manuscript which included excerpts from the works of Hippocrates, as well as those of an anonymous, hitherto unknown, author.

According to Scripture, God commanded Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt by speaking to him from a bush that, although on fire, was unaffected by the flames.

Empress Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great (272–337 AD), the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity, built a church on the site of the Burning Bush in the 4th century AD.

It was later rebuilt by Emperor Justinian I (527–565 AD), who included it within the much larger church that he built, the Church of the Transfiguration of Christ the Savior.

A small altar on a marble floor marks the location of the Burning Bush, directly above its roots.

A large bush, which used to be inside the church, thrives to this day, just on the other side of the wall behind the altar.








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