Saint Catherine’s Monastery

53km

Saint Catherine’s Monastery (Greek: Μονὴ τῆς Ἁγίας Αἰκατερίνης, Monì tìs Agìas Ekaterìnis, Arabic: دير القدّيسة كاترينا ) commonly known as Santa Katarina, its official name being Sacred Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount Sinai (Greek: Ιερά Μονή του Θεοβαδίστου Όρους Σινά, Ierà Monì tou Theovadìstou Òrous Sinà), lies on the Sinai Peninsula, at the mouth of a gorge at the foot of Mount Sinai, in the city of Saint Catherine in Egypt’s South Sinai Governorate. The monastery is Greek Orthodox (part of the wider Eastern Orthodox Church) and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Built between 548 and 565, the monastery is one of the oldest working Christian monasteries in the world.[1][2] The site contains the world’s oldest continually operating library, possessing many unique books including the Syriac Sinaiticus and, until 1859, the Codex Sinaiticus.[3][4] A small town with hotels and swimming pools, called Saint Katherine City, has grown around the monastery.

History

The oldest record of monastic life at Sinai comes from the travel journal written in Latin by a woman named Egeria about 381-384. She visited many places around the Holy Land and Mount Sinai, where, according to the Hebrew Bible, Moses received the Ten Commandments from God.

The monastery was built by order of Emperor Justinian I (reigned 527-565), enclosing the Chapel of the Burning Bush (also known as “Saint Helen’s Chapel”) ordered to be built by Helena, the mother of Constantine I, at the site where Moses is supposed to have seen the burning bush. The living bush on the grounds is purportedly the one seen by Moses. Structurally the monastery’s king post truss is the oldest known surviving roof truss in the world. The site is sacred to Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

A Fatimid mosque was created by converting an existing chapel during the Fatimid Caliphate (909-1171), which was in regular use until the period of Mameluke rule in Egypt in the 13th century and is still in use today on special occasions. During the Ottoman Empire the mosque was in desolate condition until being restored in in the early 20th century.

During the seventh century, the isolated Christian anchorites of the Sinai were eliminated: only the fortified monastery remained. The monastery is still surrounded by the massive fortifications that have preserved it. Until the twentieth century, access was through a door high in the outer walls. From the time of the First Crusade, the presence of Crusaders in the Sinai until 1270 spurred the interest of European Christians and increased the number of intrepid pilgrims who visited the monastery. The monastery was supported by its dependencies in Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Crete, Cyprus and Constantinople.

The monastery, along with several dependencies in the area, constitute the entire Orthodox Church of Mount Sinai, which is headed by an archbishop, who is also the abbot of the monastery. The exact administrative status of the church within Eastern Orthodoxy is ambiguous: by some, including the church itself, it is considered autocephalous by others an autonomous church under the jurisdiction of the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem. The archbishop is traditionally consecrated by the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem; in recent centuries he has usually resided in Cairo. During the period of the Crusades which was marked by bitterness between the Orthodox and Catholic churches, the monastery was patronized by both the Byzantine Emperors and the rulers of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, and their respective elites.

Saint Catherine's Monastery
Saint Catherine Area, South Sinai Governorate
Egypt

GPS
28.556228
33.975433

Contact
http://www.sinaimonastery.com/