Monastery of St. Catherine
Egypt, South Sinai Governorate

St. Catherine's Monastery is the smallest diocese and at the same time the oldest continuously operating Christian monastery in the world. In 2002, the monastery complex was included by UNESCO in the list of World Heritage Sites. It is located in the center of the Sinai Peninsula at the foot of Mount Sinai at an altitude of 1570 meters, in a valley between the mountains of Moses, Catherine and Safsafa. They founded it in the place where, according to tradition, the Lord appeared to Moses in a burning bush of an indestructible bush. For the first time, the monastery of St. Catherine was mentioned in the chronicles of the patriarch Eutychius of Alexandria, who lived in the 9th century: they tell that St. Helen, the mother of Emperor Constantine, shocked by the sanctity of these places, in 330 ordered to build a small chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary on the spot Burning canopy. The monastery received a further impetus in the VI century, when the emperor Justinian ordered the construction of a church, which later became the Transfiguration Church and powerful fortress walls that surrounded the previous buildings of St. Helena. Since the XI century, in connection with the spread of veneration of St. Catherine, the monastery received a new name - the monastery of St. Catherine. The real name of St. Catherine is Dorothea. At baptism, she took the name Catherine. For her belonging to the Christian faith, she was tortured countless times, and beheaded on November 25, 305. Tradition has it that during the torture, milk did not flow from her wounds. After the execution, Catherine's body disappeared. About five centuries later, the monks of the monastery, built by Justinian, obeying a vision, climbed the highest mountain of Sinai and found the remains of Catherine. They lowered them and placed them in a golden crayfish in the church. Since then, the highest mountain Sinai bears the name of St. Catherine. The history of the martyrdom of St. Catherine was told in Europe by the crusaders, and she began to be revered as a saint. Every day, believers are given access to the relics of St. Catherine, who are in the Church of the Transfiguration on the altar in a tomb covered with a white veil. The walls and columns, the roof and the inscriptions of the Temple of the Transfiguration have been preserved since the time of Justinian. In the XVIII century, a ceiling was made under the ancient roof. The earliest of the icons in the church were painted back in the VI century. Gender, interior decoration and the iconostasis date back to the 17th - 18th centuries. The wooden entrance door to the church is 1,400 years old. Above them is an inscription in Greek: "This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous will enter into them." The most sacred place in the temple is the chapel located behind the altar, built in 324 by the mother of Emperor Constantine Elena. With the help of marble columns, the altar of the chapel is supported, and below are the roots of the legendary bible bush - the burning bush. This is a bush in whose flame, according to the Old Testament, God first appeared to the prophet Moses. The bush grows wildly just a few meters from the chapel. He was transplanted in order to build a holy altar over its roots. This is the only bush of its kind on the entire Sinai Peninsula. Moreover, not a single attempt to land him in another place was successful. In the annex to the main temple of the monastery is an exhibition that displays ancient icons and books. The gallery of icons exhibited 150 of the 2,000 icons that make up the monastery’s unique collection. Twelve of the rarest and oldest icons were painted in the VI century with wax paints. The monastery has a large library with more than three thousand old manuscripts. By the number and value of manuscripts, the library of the monastery is second only to the Vatican. Throughout its long history, the monastery has never been captured, destroyed or simply damaged. The founder of Islam, the prophet Muhammad, the Arab caliphs, Turkish sultans and even Napoleon patronized the monastery, and this prevented its plunder. After the Islamization of Egypt in the X century, a mosque was erected on the territory of the monastery. This wise move avoided the destruction of the monastery. For centuries, the monastery of St. Catherine was the place of traditional pilgrimage of Russian people. There are many Russian icons, old books, bells, items of church utensils. A bell tower was built near the entrance to the monastery in the 19th century with the money of Russian donors, nine bells were poured by Russian craftsmen. Annually, the monastery of St. Catherine is visited by thousands of tourists from all over the world.

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