Coptic Monuments in Sinai
Sunday، 15 May 2016 - 12:00 AM
Since the early Christian Period, South Sinai was of a great attraction for the Christian monks. The Monasticism was as an escape from the Roman violence spread in the 4th century A.D. Especially in Firan Valley , El Tur , and Mount Moses, those who have fled the roman persecutions have taken shelter in various area in Egypt, particularly those area where near water sources.
Deir Saint 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 AD 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. Also Justinian 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 monastery lies at the foot of Moses mountain where the beauty of nature and climate and the fresh well water. To its west is El Raha Valley. It was built on a high location about 1570 feet above the level of the sea.
The most important Elements of the Monastery :
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:
This monastery is similar to the fortresses of the middle ages and it is provided with an enclosure wall of granite stones including towers at its corners and surrounded inner buildings .The height of the wall is from 12 to 15 m. while its sides measure 117 ,80 ,77,76 m.
The Original Gate:
The original gate is actually located at the western side, but it is now blocked, and to its left is the gate which is used at present, this actual gate was made in 1801.
2- The Main Church (The Great Church):
It was built at 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 to the right there is a reliquary of marble which contains the relics of St. Catherine. The abs is covered by wonderful Byzantine mosaic the visitors to this church must take off their shoes outside before they enter, imitating Moses when he approached this holly 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 century and the 8th century.
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 in their way to mekka. It is situated to the Southwest of the main church .It is a small mosque and rectangular in shape .It measures 11m in length and 7 m in width, its walls are built of granite mortared with loam clay, and it covered from inside and out side by loam clay plaster. The mosque consists of 3 Riwaqs , the middle one is the biggest . It has a main Mihrab flanked by 2 others. The floor of the mosque is covered with hip tiles, but not the original. The roof is covered with wood and reed, tiled with hip tiles. This roof stands on circular arches supported on 2 piers.
4- The Library:
The monastery contains one of the most important religious libraries in the world since it contains a great number of very rare and old manuscripts. This library has a large number of decrees of the Caliphs and the rulers. In recent years it had received great attention by many scholars, as most of the manuscripts had been microfilmed by Alexandria University and the Congress Library in Washington.
5- The Wells:
There are many wells inside the monastery, the most important are the well of Moses, north the main church. The Burning Bush well, and Saint Stephan’s well south the Main church.
6- The Oil Press:
It situated below the mosque, below its courtyard. It is for squeezing Olives to extract 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.
In the front of the monastery there is a garden including a cemetery for the monks in the middle, and a skull house beside it , the monks used to bury their dead and leave the bodies for a certain period , then they collect their bones and deposit them in that skull house .
8- The Guests dwellings (or the guest house):
Inside the enclosure wall there is a small building which was constructed in 1863 during the reign of Khedive Ishmael. It dedicated for the dwelling of the visitors and the guests of the monastery.