St. Catherine’s Monastery is roughly 230 kilometers from Sharm el Sheikh, and lies at the foot of Mount Sinai in St. Katherine city, Egypt. The monastery is now proclaimed by UNESCO a World Heritage Site, being the oldest functioning Christian monastery in the world.
The monastery was named in honor of St. Catherine, who was one of the earliest Christian martyrs. Back in her days, Christians were being persecuted because of their beliefs. Catherine steadfastly refused to renounce her faith, thus the Roman Emperor ordered to have her executed. After her execution her body disappeared, and legend says that her body was carried by the angels to the peak of the highest mountain in Egypt. Three hundred years later, her body was found and carried down to the mountain. Her remains are placed in a golden casket, which is kept in the monastery to this day.
St. Catherine’s Monastery was constructed between 527 and 565 AD, by the order of Emperor Justinian. The emperor granted the monastery with a hundred Roman and a hundred Egyptian slaves, which immensely contributed to the prosperity of the monastery. The monastery was built on the site where the Burning Bush is believed to be located.
The heart of the monastery is the Church of the Transfiguration, so make sure not to miss it. It has a bell tower which overlooks the whole complex. Every morning, the bells wake up the monks with thirty three strokes, to symbolize the thirty three years of Jesus Christ’s human life.
The library preserves the second largest collection of manuscripts and codices in the world, after the Vatican Library. The library holds around 4,500 volumes in Greek Arabic, Hebrew, Georgian, Coptic, Syrian and Georgian texts. Paintings, enamels, sacerdotal ornaments, chalices, marbles, reliquaries and other liturgical objects are also in the monastery’s possessions. The Greek Orthodox St. Catherine’s Monastery was left untouched by the Byzantine iconoclasm, so the early Greek and Russian icons and mosaics are still left virtually preserved to this date.