400AD-1400AD-Middle Ages Africa Egypt Churches, Cathedrals, Basilicas, Monasteries UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Saint Catherine Monastery: A sacred place in the Holy Land

Saint Catherine's Monastery
Discover the intriguing history of Saint Catherine's Monastery, the very location where God spoke to Moses, leading the Israelites out of Egypt. Presently, the monastery contains a sacred altar, elevated above the roots of the Burning Bush, where Moses was spoken to by God. However, the magnificence of this site extends beyond that! The library at St. Catherine's Monastery boasts the second most remarkable collection of codices and early manuscripts in the world.
TypeMonastery, Eastern Orthodox Church, Religious
Year565 AD
Age1455 years
FounderEmperor Justinian I
Other namesMonastery of the Transfiguration, Sacred Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount Sinai, Monastery of the Burning Bush
Getting thereFrom Cairo: By bus, minibus, car – 8H
From Sharm el-Sheikh: By bus, by car – 4H
Best way from Sharm el-Sheikh: Organised tours that depart from located Sharm el Sheikh Hotels.
Visiting HoursMonday – Saturday – 9:00 – 12:00
Sunday – Closed
LocationSaint Catherine, South Sinai Governorate, Egypt, Africa

The Bible – Book of Exodus and Saint Catherine’s Monastery

In the Book of Exodus, Moses was forced to flee Egypt and come to live with Jethro. Moses, who shepherded Jethro’s flocks, discovered the burning bush while tending the sheep.

Moses approached the bush and discovered that the bush was on fire, but the flames did not burn it. [Exodus 3:2] God’s spirit, in the bush, said “I am your father’s God, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” [Exodus 3:4, NIV] God then commanded Moses to remove his sandals, as the land was considered holy.

The Greek Orthodox monastery of the God-trodden Mount Sinai ( Saint Catherine’s Monastery) is located at the very place where God appeared to Moses in the Burning Bush, beneath the Mount of the Decalogue. In the providence of God, it is at this site also that the holy relics of Saint Catherine are enshrined.

Burning Bush

The chapel’s sacred altar is situated atop the roots of the Burning Bush, which legend has it, is still thriving.

The original gray granite walls remain intact, and the church is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, having been constructed during the same period.

Transfiguration of Christ

Above the altar is a mosaic depicting the Transfiguration of Christ dating from the sixth century (early Byzantine period).

Relics of St. Catherine of Alexandria

To the right of the altar, in a sarcophagus, are the relics of St. Catherine of Alexandria.

Ahtiname of Muhammad – Letter of Protection

At the gate of the monastery is Ahtiname, a letter dictated by the Prophet Muhammad asking Muslims to protect the monastery.

Pilgrims enter the chapel without shoes, in remembrance of the commandment of God to Moses, “Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.”

This is the oldest continuously-inhabited Christian monastery, with a history that can be traced back over seventeen centuries. The monastery predates the divisions of the Christian world, its origins extending to late antiquity. (sinaimonastery.com)

Library of Saint Catherine

The Library of Saint Catherine preserves the second-largest collection of early codices and manuscripts in the world ( 6000 volumes). In the first place is the Vatican Library. It contains Greek, Georgian, Arabic, Coptic, Hebrew, Armenian, Aramaic, and Caucasian Albanian texts.

A number of ancient icons can be found here, including the famous Pantokrator of Sinai (dating from the 6th century AD.), and The Ladder of Divine Ascent (dating from the 12th century AD), an iconic representation of the book by that name by St. John Climacus.

Codex Sinaiticus

A nearly complete Codex Sinaiticus (Greek manuscript of the Bible) dating from the 4th century that formerly belonged to St. Catherine’s, is now in the British Museum in London and in the State Library at St. Petersburg (8 fragments)

The Codex Sinaiticus contains the oldest surviving complete New Testament.

The Codex Sinaiticus and the Codex Vaticanus are the oldest copies of the scriptures written on parchment.

In 1975 3 000 manuscripts were discovered including missing parts of the Codex Sinaiticus, some 50 other incomplete codexes, and 10 nearly complete ones.

About the author


I am Catalina, and my passion for travel, mysteries, legends and archaeology drives me to explore the world and uncover its hidden wonders.