Mount Sinai is famous for the ten commandments and the burning bush in which Moses saw God. Saint Catherine’s Monastery rests at the foot of Mount Sinai. Nestled within, is the burning bush and more than half of the world’s Byzantine icons. Saint Catherine’s Monastery projects a message of world peace. So much that UNESCO recognizes it as World Heritage Site.
Who was Saint Catherine?
Catherine of Alexandria converted hundreds of people to Christianity in the 4th century. Pagan Emperor Maxentius did not agree with or support Catherine and her great faith. He tried to stop her with promises and arguments from 50 rhetoricians. In their debates, Catherine converted all 50 pagans to Christianity. Consequently, Maxentius resorted to torture and killed the teenager for her beliefs. Following her martydom, Angels brought Catherine’s remains to the neighboring mountaintop. To this day, they continue to emit a sweet fragrance and work miracles. 1,100 years later, Saint Joan of Arc credited Saint Catherine with counseling her on her mission.
Saint Catherine’s Monastery
The history of Saint Catherine’s Monastery begins in the 3rd century. At this time, the first monastics came to the Sinai to be nearer to God. Emperor Justinian I ordered the fortress built in the 6th century. It protected the holy site, including the Chapel of the Holy Bush, the Well of Moses, the great basilica and monks.
The monastery was never sacked over its lifetime. The library at Saint Catherine’s Monastery has a huge collection of ancient texts. Only the Vatican has more. The monastery is also known for its outstanding collection of treasures. These include icons, mosaics, murals, sculptures, metalwork, and engravings. Most noteworthy, these works have been here their entire lives.
Planning your Visit to Saint Catherine’s Monastery
Saint Catherine’s Monastery maintains its historic way of operation. Accordingly, all visitors to Saint Catherine’s Monastery are Pilgrims to the Sinaite fathers. Visitors should dress and behave appropriately for a holy site. Additionally, consider temperature variations in the desert. A hot day can be cooler in the early morning and late evening. Pilgrims can walk to the monastery or take a camel ride.
In the words of one visitor, Arnar:
Riding a camel under the clear starlit sky with the moon half full, this was just like a scene from an adventure movie. Seeing the sunrise at the top was one of the most spectacular things I’ve seen and believe me, no image or video can do this justice.