Egypt tours are famous for the Giza Pyramid complex, Great sphinx, ancient ruins such as Memphis, Thebes and karnak. Many travelers who goes on Egypt tours prefer to visit Saint Catherine because many of the Christian churches and the mountain of Moses are situated in the area of Saint Catharine.
The history of the monastery of Saint Catharine
The monastery of Saint Catharine was constructed in the 4th century AD when Empress Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine in 432 AD. However, the building work of the monastery was completed in 545 AD by the emperor Justinian. The monastery has served, since that date and until today, as the stronghold of the monks who live in Sinai.
The monastery was afterwards named after Saint Catharine, a Christian martyr that was tortured and then killed in Alexandria in 307 AD. One of the monks has had a vision that the remains of Saint Catharine was transferred to monastery which in fact occurred a few years later and since that time, the monastery and the whole areas were called after Saint Catharine.
The monastery of Saint Catharine
Since the early ages of Christianity, South Sinai has acted as a major destination that attracted a large number of Egyptian Copts who have erected many monasteries and churches in the valleys of Sinai including the monastery of Saint Catharine.
The monastery of Saint Catharine is located at the bottom of the Mount Sinai in a location that is featured with amazing natural beauty and a source of fresh water.
The monastery is surrounded with a great wall that contains many structures inside it ranging. The construction of the monastery is similar to that of a medieval fortress. This was because the monks wanted to protect themselves against the Berbers who used to attack the monastery every now and then. The wall of the monastery was built out of strong Granite with many watchtowers in the sides of the wall. The wall was 12 to 15 meters in height and the longest of its sides was 80X 117 meters.
The Basilica of Transfiguration and liturgy
The Basilica of Transfiguration is the most ancient Christian monument in Egypt or Egypt tours. It was constructed during the reign of Emperor Justinian in the 6th century AD in the shape of the Romans Basilica which was a popular design at that period. The construction work of this church was finished in 527 AD.
The Church of Transfiguration has a magnificent interior design with two rows of 6 columns each making 12 columns representing the months of the year. Although the transfiguration church has been exposed to many damages throughout history, most of its original ceiling is still well preserved. This is in addition to many inscriptions on its walls.
In the center of the Church, the matchless icon collection of the monastery of Saint Catharine is located. This collection is among the most important displays in the monastery and in the whole world. There is nothing to be compared to it except the icons of the Hagia Sophia in Turkey.
Many other remarkable items are on display in this section including the remains of the body of Saint Catharine kept in two silver boxes. The first one contains her skull and the other contains her left arm which is ornamented golden rings and jewelry.
On the other side of the room, there are two large silver boxes with the picture of Saint Catharine painted on them and they contain valuable gifts which the monastery has received from kings and emperors throughout history.
The monastery of Saint Catharine hosts a huge selection of around 2000 beautiful distinctive icons. Some of them were added in the 6th century while others were put in the monastery in the beginning of the Byzantine era, from the 10th century to 15th century AD.
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