Moses led his people through these rugged mountains in to the Promise Land, and for this the location has long been a magnet and sacred site for Christian pilgrims traveling to the holy land, after all it is in Mount Sinai, where God showed himself to Moses to deliver to him the tablets containing the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20).
Saint Catherine’s Monastery a UNESCO World Heritage site was built between 548 and 565, and is one of the oldest working Christian monasteries in the world that has never been destroyed in its long history. Today the monastery is visited by thousands of Christian and those of Jewish faith, and because of this a small town has grown nearby to the monastery called Saint Katherine City.
The monastery is known as Saint Catherine’s, however its full official name is the Sacred Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount Sinai. The earliest description refers to the Monastery of the Holy Virgin, for the revelation of God at the Burning Bush (Exodus 3) was seen as a type of the Virgin Mary and the Incarnation. The monastery is dedicated to the holy prophets Moses and Elias, whom both came to Mount Sinai, and spoke with Christ at the Transfiguration.
There is no question Saint Catherine’s has a long rich history, and is described to day as an undiscovered jewel of Christian travel to the Holy Land. The Burning Bush Chapel was originally constructed by Empress Helen, mother of Constantine the Great, but the main monastery was erected by Emperor Justinian, whom wanted to protect monks in the region whom honored and worked in this site.
The monastery is named after Saint Catherine of Alexandria a princess at the time, and now a Christian saint believed to have converted thousands to the Christian faith, became a martyr here at the hands of the pagan emperor Mxentius, and according to tradition angels carried her corpse to Mount Sinai, where she was buried and later discovered five hundred years later at the top of the peak that now bears her name. Her relics are stored in a marble reliquary in the Basilica.
The monastery was a formidable fortification for those wishing to enter it by force, featuring solid granite walls measuring 8 to 35 meters tall with a single entrance door 30 feet high, where people and provisions had to be lifted in a system of pulleys, and where food was lowered for those in need and nomads in the area. It has withstood numerous attacks over its fourteen hundred year existence, protecting a rich collection of art including precious manuscripts, and some of the worlds oldest bibles. Today, while it is one of the oldest monasteries in the world, its original, preserved state is unmatched.
You’ll find Saint Catherine Monastery to be one of your highlights during your Christian Holy Land tour, and on one of the mornings during your tour at day break, those who desire and are physically capable, can climb-up Mt. Sinai Jabal Musa (6,900 ft) to the summit (750 steps) walking the Footsteps of Moses, and enjoy a time of praise and incredible views of the Sinai wilderness.