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Religious Attractions of St. Catherine’s Monastery

St. Catherine’s Monastery has a religious connection to the tale of Moses and the Burning Bush, starting with the Chapel of the Burning Bush. This attraction was constructed with its altar positioned above the roots of the bush, and is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. In this article, you will learn more about the other attractions of the monastery that interest tourists.

Basilica of the Transfiguration

Also known as Katholikon, the main church of the monastery is comprised of granite. The church structure, the roof, and the carved cedar doors that make up the entrance all date back to 527 AD. Next to the main altar inside the basilica, there is a sarcophagus with the relics of St. Catherine (head and hand).

Bell Tower

A monk from the monastery named Gregorius built the bell tower, which offers a taste of neo-Classical style. The nine bells inside the tower were a gift from the Tsar of Russia.

Well of Moses

Tapping into an underground spring, the monastery has access to a continual supply of fresh water that comes from the Well of Moses. Tradition says that the location of the well is where Moses met his future wife, Zipporah. Their meeting takes place after he protects her and her sisters from a threatening band of local shepherds (as told in Exodus 2:16-21).

The Monk’s Cells

Found along the inner faces of the defensive walls are the monk’s cells.

Old Refectory

Also known as the ‘Crusader’s Church,’ the Old Refectory was a rectangular space with a Gothic vaulted roof that had arches decorated with the arms and other symbols of Crusader knights. The walls are covered with murals that date back to the Crusader period and the 16th century. Hailing from Corfu, one of the most noted features is a long table with elaborate carvings that came from the 18th century.

The Library

St. Catherine’s is home the oldest library in the Christian world. The second largest collection of early codices and manuscripts in the world can be found at this site. The only location to have more publications than the monastery is the library at the Vatican. A collection of more than 2,000 icons relating to Christ, Mary, and the saints are on display in a special gallery with items that represent from the 6th to 18th century.

The Fatimid Mosque

Located to the southwest of the basilica, this mosque was built on the site of a Crusader chapel. Features include a small courtyard, circular arches, and small high windows. The mosque was finished in 1106.

Monastery Garden

Located outside the walls, the Monastery Garden took years for the monks to build. The soil was brought in from a different place and tasks were constructed so that water storage was possible for irrigation. In the garden, fruit trees grew that produced the likes of apricots, olives, and plums. They also grew vegetables in the garden.

Cemetery

Situated next to the garden was the place where the monks were initially buried after they died , the cemetery. Once their remains decayed, their bones were disinterred and transported to the Charnel House, which was a crypt located beneath the Chapel of St. Trifonio. Special areas were designated for the bones of abbots and archbishops. A visit to the Charnel House allows you to see the large collection of skulls belonging to past monks. There are thousands.