Egypt Picture - St. Catherine's Monastery

St. Catherine's Monastery

St. Catherine's Monastery


Sonia Halladay


St. Catherine's Monastery


At the foot of Mount Sinai, according to tradition, lies the place where Moses tended the flocks of Jethro, his father-in-law, and where he saw the Burning Bush. From the end of the third century the area was settled by small communities of monks escaping persecution by the Romans and seeking the spiritual life in the isolation of the mountains. Some time after 313 A.D., when Constantine had granted freedom of worship throughout the Roman Empire, the monks of Sinai petitioned his mother, Helena, for patronage. Helena answered this request in 330 A.D. by erecting a small church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and also a tower on the traditional site of the Burning Bush to provide refuge for the monks.

In about 530 A.D. Emperor Justinian ordered the building of the great walled monastery, with its magnificent church, which remains to this day. The church incorporated Helena's earlier building and was also dedicated to the Virgin Mary, since the church fathers saw the Burning Bush as a symbol of the Annunciation. The monastery was originally called the Monastery of the Transfiguration but since the eleventh century it has also been known as St. Catherine's.

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