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Cross and crescent: the world or "jihad"?

December 10 2005

Holy sites of Mount Sinai

To protect the many monks who settled around the burning bush, from nomads builders of St. Justinian led by architect Stefanos Aylisiosa monumental fortress was built so that its walls for 14 centuries, almost dilapidated. An exception is the north side, which was damaged several times. The latter refers to its renovation in 1801, the period of Napoleon's Egyptian adventure. This wall thickness of two to three meters is built from local granite. Its height varies depending on the configuration of land - between 10 and seating for up to 20 meters.

The main entrance to the ancient monastery, with its western side, is now closed. According to the methods of defense at the time, above him made loophole through which attackers could pour boiling oil. Left of the entrance there is another, smaller, and which now enjoys. He, too old, with three trimmed with metal doors.

Along the inner side walls are dwelling monks and other buildings. Inside the monastery - twelve hours. Since the monastery is built on the hillside, we had to erect an arch to support the cells and other buildings. 60 of them are still preserved since the construction of the monastery.

In 1951, the southern wall was new building. It contains a library, a gallery of icons, the refectory, and the residence of the Archbishop. Among the new buildings - a hotel built on the west side of the monastery.


Stefanos, the architect of the monastery walls, built as a church in the northern part of the monastery. Work began in 542 and was completed in nine years. Chapel of the burning bush, built St. Elena, became part of the church.

The church is built of granite in the form of the basilica, with walkways on both sides of the spacious nave with an apse and narthex. Walls and columns, roofs and inscriptions have survived from the time of Justinian. In the XVIII century, under the old roof was made of the ceiling. The earliest of the icons are in churches, were written in the VI century. Floor, interior and iconostasis are XVII - XVIII centuries.

Wooden entrance doors to the church 1400 years. Above them - the inscription in Greek: "That the gates of the Lord the righteous will enter therein" (Psalms, 117:20).

Elaborately carved doors, executed by Byzantine craftsmen who used the Lebanese cedar. They consist of four parts, with reliefs of animals, birds, flowers and leaves. Doors of the porch are made by the Crusaders in the XI century.

Along the Basilica established twelve columns - the number of months per year. Above each - a Byzantine icon of the saints, are remembered in a particular month. Monolithic columns made of granite and plastered. Capitals are made in an unusual style. On them - crosses, flags, grape, lambs - a traditional symbol of the Lord Jesus Christ - and other Christian symbols.

Along each of the side aisles are three chapels, and behind them - the Burning Bush Chapel.

Mosaic of the Transfiguration

The apse of the church is decorated with splendid mosaic depicting the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ.This is the earliest and one of the best mosaics of the Orthodox Church, completely extant. Her artistic style is close to the Italian school of the period, especially the mosaics in the church of St. Vitali and the St. Sophia Cathedral in Constantinople.

Subject mosaic of the Transfiguration is drawn from the Gospel of Matthew 17:2. At its center - Jesus, on the sides - Moses and Elijah, at the feet of Jesus - his disciples Peter, James and John.

In the morning sunlight penetrates into the church through the eastern windows, reminding us that "his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light" (Matthew 17:2). Along the edges of the apse - mosaic images of the twelve apostles, twelve prophets, Longinusa, abbot of the monastery during the creation of mosaics, and Deacon John (possibly John of the Ladder).

Chapel of the burning bush

"At the beginning of the valley was a lot of cells of hermits, and even a church with a bush. Shrub grows to this day and gives branches. This bush, which I have already told me, from which God in the flames of the fire turned to Moses. Where the front of the church is growing bush, split a very nice garden. "

Such a description of the place gave the pilgrim from Spain on behalf of Eteria, who visited him at the end of IV century. About as it looks now. Chapel of the Burning Bush is behind the main altar of the church. Pilgrims come in this most sacred place of the monastery without shoes, remembering the commandment of God, given them to Moses: "Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground" (Exodus 3:5). The chapel is dedicated to the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, and some hanging in it the icons were painted on the same topic. On the other icons - the image of the Virgin with Jesus in her arms, sitting in the center of the burning bush.

Holy altar of the chapel is not as usual - the holy relics of the martyrs, and over the roots of the burning bush. In the apse of the chapel - a mosaic image of the Cross, referring to the X century. Every Saturday in the chapel serves the Divine Liturgy.

The bush grows wildly in just a few meters from the chapel. He was transplanted in order to be able to build a holy altar on his back. This is the only bush of its kind in all of the Sinai peninsula, with no attempt to land his process in another location was not successful (except the Russian Gornensky monastery in Jerusalem, where caught on a bush).

Old Refectory

The old refectory - one of the most interesting buildings of the monastery. It is rectangular with a semicircular ceiling in Gothic style. Arches are decorated with symbols and inscriptions Crusaders. On the east wall of the refectory of the phenomenon depicted the prophet of the Lord to Abraham in the form of three angels (Genesis 18:1-2), which are a symbol of the Holy Trinity, and above - the second coming of Christ on Judgement Day. Painting executed in 1573.

The Centre takes a long refectory table, brought from the island of Corfu in the XVIII century. It is decorated with carvings in the form of angels and flowers in the Rococo style. In former times there had food, and the Archbishop sat at the head table.


The bell tower was built in 1871, a monk named Grigorius. In her nine bells of different sizes, the gift of the Russian Tsars, as well as a wooden bell (talanton) used before the advent of metal bells.Now before the usual service uses talanton, and bells - the holidays and before the Divine Liturgy.

Gallery icon

In the gallery are 150 out of 2000 icons that make up a unique collection of the monastery. They are purely spiritual, artistic and historical value. Twelve rarest and oldest icons are written back in the VI century encaustic. Part of the collection dates from the early Byzantine period (VI-X century). These icons are made of Greek, Georgian, Syrian and Coptic (Egyptian) masters. The collection of widely available icons XI-XV centuries. Works of Western European letters is not enough. One of them, written in Gothic style in 1387 the Spanish icon depicting St. Catherine posted at the church.


The number and value of manuscripts library of the monastery is second only to the Vatican. Of the 3000 two-thirds of the manuscripts written in Greek. Others - in Arabic, Syriac, Georgian, Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopian and Slavic languages. Most of the manuscripts - on religious topics. But the collection also has historical records of gold or lead seals of emperors, patriarchs, bishops and Turkish sultans.

Now, the most valuable manuscript libraries - the so-called "Syrian Code» V century with a copy of VII or VIII centuries. But before the library was also Codex Sinaiticus, an even more valuable Greek manuscript of the IV century the text of the Bible. In 1865, a German scholar Tischendorf on behalf of the Russian tsar took him time to study. Codex Sinaiticus was taken to St. Petersburg and never returned. In 1933, the British Museum in London bought it from the Soviet Union for a huge sum of 100,000 pounds. Now the oldest gospel library, written in Greek, refers to the 717. This is a gift of the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius third.

In addition to valuable manuscripts in the library collection and 5000 books. Some of them belong to the first decades of printing.

Garden and the tomb

Monastery garden, a triangle crashing into the desert - an oasis among the granite rocks and lifeless landscape. He carefully nurtured by the monks who tirelessly brought soil from afar. They also built a cistern to collect rain water and water formed by melting snow in the mountains. Physical labor has always been an essential part of life of Orthodox monks. In the garden grow olive and apricot trees, plum and cherry.

There will also grow vegetables. Inside the garden is situated the monastery cemetery, adjacent to the vault - vault bones of monks who had died in the monastery for many centuries. The dead were initially buried in the small cemetery, and then their bones removed and placed in a crypt. Remains of Archbishops are stored in special compartments. This strange custom is primarily from the fact that in this as in other monasteries, located in the desert, it is difficult to cave tomb in a stone ground. But he also has a spiritual meaning - to constantly remind the monks of the impermanence of life.

In the crypt is the skeleton of a hermit Stefanos, who lived in the VI century, in black robes and a white cross on a headdress.

Mount St. Catherine

To the east of the monastery there is a hill with a chapel on top. The monks called it a hill Jethro.According to Christian tradition, there lived Jethro and his seven daughters (Exodus 2:15-22). On top of this hill you can see the two famous mountains - St. Catherine's and Moses.

Mount St. Catherine - the highest in the Sinai, a height of 2642 meters above the level of

Sea. From the monastery you can climb it on foot for five hours. The rise is not too tedious due trails by one of the monks named Moses. You can also take a camel, horse or donkey.

At the top of the hill is a chapel dedicated to St. Catherine. According to legend, its holy relics were found there and then moved to a monastery. Near the chapel are two rooms for pilgrims wanting to spend the night on the mountain.

From the top of the mountain offers a breathtaking view of the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea with its islands.

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