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Biblical Sites: St. Catherine’s Monastery

Considered one of the oldest of its kind, St. Catherine’s Monastery was built during the 4th century in Sinai Peninsula, Egypt. To this day, the monastery is still active. In this article, you will learn about the history of this monastery and its significance in religious circles.

Located on the Sinai peninsula at the foot of Mount Sinai in Egypt, you will find St. Catherine’s Monastery , an Orthodox monastery seen as one of the oldest Christian monasteries in the world. Many valuable icons are associated with the monastery, which has a link to the burning bush that was seen by Moses. Mount Sinai is located above the monastery, which is where Moses received the Ten Commandments from God. Aside from Christianity, other religions, such as Islam and Judaism, feel this place is sacred.

St. Helena, who was the mother of Constantine the Great, built the Chapel of the Burning Bush at the site where Moses supposedly saw a miracle. This was done in the early 4th century. Throughout the years, modifications were made.

In 527, the Byzantine emperor Justinian (who was known for building churches) would start to construct fortified walls around the chapel. In the 560s, workers for Justinian finished up the Church of the Transfiguration. Originally called the Monastery of the Transfiguration, the site was later linked to St. Catherine of Alexandria. During the 10th century, the head and hand of the martyr from the 3rd century was brought to the monastery for safe keeping. During the Byzantine Era, St. Catherine’s Monastery became a major pilgrimage destination and still maintains its importance today.

The Muslims recognize Mount Sinai as the place where God handed down his Law. The Prophet Muhammad signed a document in 623, which exempted the Christian monks of St. Catherine’s from the taxes and military service that were usually demanded of people. He commanded that the Muslims offer the community any assistance that they needed.

In response, the monks of St. Catherine allowed a small Crusader chapel within the monastery to be converted into a mosque. This gesture took place between 1101 and 1106. It was regularly used until Mameluke rule took place in the late 13th century. The church was then ignored until it underwent restoration in the early part of the 20th century. Local Muslims still use the mosque on special occasions.

The area centering St. Catherine’s Monastery was given the status of being a World Heritage Site in 2002 because of Mount Sinai’s significance to the three major religions of the world. The monastery also offers a rich history in art and architecture.

When visiting the monastery, you will find a massive wall that measures 11 meters high , thanks to Emperor Justinian in the 6th century. In the wall, there are carvings of Christian symbols, such as crosses and monograms. Tourists that come to St. Catherine’s Monastery find many attractions to explore, which are highlighted in the article titled, “Religious Attractions of St. Catherine’s Monastery.”