Located at the foot of Mount Moses, St. Catherine’s Monastery was constructed by order of the Emperor Justinian between 527 and 565. It is built around what is thought to be Moses’ Burning Bush, which has a chapel built atop it. It is a spectacular natural setting for priceless works of art, including Arab mosaics, Greek and Russian icons, Western oil paintings, paintings on wax, fine sacerdotal ornaments, marbles, enamels, chalices, reliquaries, including one donated by Czar Alexander II in the 19th century, and another by Empress Catherine of Russia in the 17th century. But of perhaps even greater significance is that it is one of the largest and most important collection of illuminated manuscripts in the world (The Vatican has the largest). The collection consists of some 4,500 volumes in Greek, Coptic, Arabic, Armenian, Hebrew, Slavic, Syriac, Georgian and other languages.
St. Catherine’s is also a formidable fortification, with granite walls measuring 8 to 35 meters tall, surrounded by gardens and cypresses. Prior to probably the twentieth century, the only entrance to St. Catherine’s was a small door 30 feet high, where provisions and people were lifted with a system of pulleys, and where food was often lowered to nomads. It has withstood numerous attacks over its 14 hundred year existence, thus protecting a rich store of art. Today, while it is one of the oldest monasteries in the world, its original, preserved state is unmatched.
Saint Catherine’s Monastery lies on the Sinai Peninsula, at the mouth of an inaccessible gorge at the foot of Mount Sinai in Saint Katherine city in Egypt. The monastery is Greek Orthodox and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. According to the UNESCO report (60100 ha / Ref: 954) and website hereunder, this monastery has been called the oldest working Christian monastery in the world – although the Monastery of Saint Anthony, situated across the Red Sea in the desert south of Cairo, also holds claim to that title.
Wadi Feiran – the Sinai’s largest wadi (valley) and one of its most archeologically important stretches of terrain. It was here, according to locals, scholars, and legend, that Moses struck a rock with his staff, bringing forth a spring so his people could drink.
Feiran is also the Site of Rafadim, the fabled oasis where the Hebrews camped and battled the Amelecites. For the pilgrims and believers who have been coming to this wadi for centuries, a journey through Feiran is to pass through an entire chapter of the Old Testament itself, Exodus 17.
Given such prominence in the Old Testament, it is no surprise that Feiran is littered with the ruins of dozens of ancient churches; some dating back to the 4th century AD, when Feiran began to develop into a major religious center for monks and pilgrims, many on their way to Mount Sinai and St. Catherine’s Monastery further east.
Information is taken from Atlas Tours.