Thursday, September 13, 2012

Mount Sinai: Monastery of St. Catherine

According to tradition, Catherine was born around AD 280 in Alexandria, Egypt. She became a Christian around 295. In her youth, she became both a brilliant scholar and a radiant witness to Jesus. Hundreds of Olympians became Christians in response to her witness. In 305, when her converts included people close to the emperor, himself a devout Olympian, he had them and her murdered. Angels carried her body to Mount Sinai.

Helena, the mother of the emperor Constantine, ordered the construction of a chapel in AD 327 at Mount Sinai on the spot where Moses saw the burning bush. Justinian, a later Roman emperor, financed the building of a monastery enclosing that chapel in 527.

According to tradition, monks of that monastery discovered the body of Catherine in 800. Because of the popularity of Catherine as a saint and martyr, news of their discovery spread quickly. Soon pilgrims began arriving and have continued to do so ever since.

The monastery today contains a bush said to be the one seen by Moses, a priceless collection of early Christian manuscripts, and 2,000 icons. The 20 monks who live there care for the hundreds of visitors who arrive by bus each day.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven Farsaci.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.