No part of this website may be reproduced or copied in any form without our written permission      

Share this page

Complete Guide  to Egypt travel & Tours
Complete Egypt

Complete Egypt © 2012.  All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy.       

Complete Egypt

Home About Egypt Things to do How to travel Accommodation Nile cruises Tour Packages Travel Help A Great story awaits you! Complete Egypt
Complete guide to Egypt  travel & Tours

Join us

The Monastery of St Catherine

Coptic sites

Cairo short stay tour  03 Days/02 Nights

3 nights Cairo tour 04 Days/03 Nights

Cairo, & Alexandria tour 6 Days/05 Nights

Cairo long stay 6 Days/05 Nights

Cairo, cruising the Nile 07 Days/6 Nights

Memorable trip 07 Days / 06 Nights

Across the Nile river 08 Days/07 Nights

The land of pharohs 09 Days / 08 Nights

leisure at red sea, Alexandria 10 D/09 N

Egypt dream tour 11 Days / 10 Nights

Budget package 12 Days/11 Nights

Nile supreme 12 Days/11 Nights

Wonders of Egypt 14 Days/13 Nights

The ancient Egypt 14 Days/13 Nights

Beach soul 15 Days/14 Nights

Cairo, long cruise, & Alexandria 15 D/14 N

Explore Egypt 16 Days/15 Nights

Spiritual-Holy land 16 Days/15 Nights

Around Egypt 18 Days/17 Nights

Around Egypt & Petra 20 Days/19 Nights

Around Egypt & Jordan 26 Days/25 Night

Tour packages

General Information

Egyptian Cities

Maps of Egypt

Egyptian history

Tour planner

Egypt vacations

Tour packages

Egypt Nile cruises

Travel news

FAQ

About Egypt

Culture

travel time

Entry visa

Food & Cuisine

Weather

Stay Healthy

Travel tips

Pharonic sites

Coptic sites

Greco roman

Nubian sites

Sightseeing guide

Bus timetable

Train timetable

Transportation

The Monastery of St Catherine

In 342 A.D, the Empress Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, built a monastery, including the chapel known as the Virgin Mary, at the Burning Bush site; where it is believed that Moses received the two tablets. In the 6th century A.D the Emperor Justinian ordered the building of the church known today as the Church of Transfiguration; both the church and the monastery were later named for Saint Catherine. Justinian also ordered the building of a high enclosure wall, with towers to protect the monastery, and it is said that he provided it with 200 Roman soldiers to protect it against the attacks of the Bedouins.

 

The most important Elements of the Monastery are:

1-The Enclosure Wall and the Gate

2-The Great Church

3-The Burning Bush Chapel

4-The Fatimid Mosque

5-The Library

6-The Wells

7-The Oil Press

8-The Garden

9-The Monks Cells

10-The Guests Dwellings

11-The Two Mills

12-The Grain Stores

 

1-The Enclosure Wall:

The monastery is similar to the fortresses of the middle ages, and it was built with an enclosure wall of granite stones, including towers at its corners, and inner buildings surrounding it. The height of the wall is between 12m and 15m, while its 4 sides measure 117m, 80m, 77m, and 76m.

 

The Original Gate:

The original gate is actually located on the western side, but it is now blocked! To its left is the gate that is used at present, which was made in 1801.

 

2-The Main Church (The Great Church):

It was built on the northern side of the monastery. It takes the shape of a basilica and it consists of a central nave and two aisles that lead to small chapels. The central nave ends with the altar at its eastern side, and the aisles end with 2 rooms. Near to the altar on the right there is a reliquary of marble, which contains the relics of St. Catherine. A wonderful Byzantine mosaic covers the apse. The visitors to this church must take off their shoes outside before they enter, imitating Moses when he approached this Holy place.

*The monastery contains about 2000 icons, which is considered as one of the most important collections of icons in the world. Some of them date back to the 5th and 8th centuries. You can see some of them hanging on the walls of the vestibule, which leads to the entrance of the main church.

 

3-The Mosque

It was built during the Caliphate of Al-Amer Be Ahkam Allah in 500 A.H (1106 A.D) to be a resting place for the pilgrims who pass by the monastery on their way to Mecca (or Makkah), and is situated on the southwest of the main church. It is a small Mosque, rectangular in shape, and measures 11m long by 7m wide, with walls built of granite mortared with loam clay, covered with loam clay plaster. The Mosque consists of 3 riwaqs; the middle one being the biggest, with a main mihrab flanked by 2 others. The floor of the Mosque is covered with hip tiles, but not the original ones! The roof is covered with wood and reed, tiled with hip tiles, standing on circular arches, supported on 2 piers.

The minaret is 12m in height, ending with a balcony projecting 50cm and bearing a semi-ball shaped dome at the top.

The minbar (pulpit) is made of cedar wood decorated with floral decorations of a Fatimid style, which is one of the 3 famous minbars built in this style.

The Mosque contained 2 silver candlesticks, still preserved in good condition. There is a chair on which 4 lines of inscription were written in Floral Kufic mentioning that the Prince Anoshteken Al-Amer built the Mosque during the reign of the Caliph Al-Amer Be Ahkam Allah in 500 A.H (1106 A.D).

 

4-The Library

The monastery has one of the most important religious libraries in the world, containing a great number of very rare and old manuscripts. This library also has a large number of decrees of the Caliphs and the rulers. In recent years it has received a lot of attention by many scholars, as Alexandria University, and the Congress Library in Washington, has microfilmed most of the manuscripts.

 

5-The Wells

There are many wells inside the monastery; the most important are “the Well of Moses”, north of the main church, and “The Burning Bush Well” and “Saint Stephen's Well”, which are south of the main church.

 

6-The Oil Press

It is situated below the Mosque’s courtyard, and is used for squeezing olives to extract the oil. Its ceiling is roofed by wooden beams, and reed ties, resting on granite arches. The floor of the yard is provided with lanterns, to lighten the oil press.

 

7-The Garden

In the front of the monastery there is a garden, including a cemetery, for the monks, with a “skull house” beside it. The monks used to bury their dead, leave the bodies for a certain period, and then collect their bones and deposit them in the “skull house”.

 

8-The Guests Dwellings (or the Guest House)

Inside the enclosure wall there is a small building that was constructed in 1863 during the reign of Khedive Ishmael. It is dedicated for the dwelling of the visitors, and the guests of the monastery.

Pharonic sites

Coptic sites

Greco roman

Nubian sites

Related links

Interesting tips

The monastery lies at the foot of “Moses Mountain”, a beautiful site, on a high location about 1570 feet above sea level, with a good climate and plenty of fresh well water. To the west of it is the El-Raha Valley.