St. Catherine's Monastery complex was built around the very place where God appeared to Moses in the Burning Bush, beneath the Mount of the Ten Commandments. In the providence of God, it is also at this site that the holy relics of Saint Catherine of Alexandria are enshrined. St. Catherine's is the oldest continuously inhabited Christian monastery, with a history that can be traced back over seventeen centuries.
Christians came to Mount Sinai in the latter third century, fleeing from the Roman persecutions, even as Moses had come, fleeing from the wrath of Pharaoh. But the latter third and early fourth centuries also witnessed the beginnings of the monastic movement, when monks first began to seek out places in the desert, to pass their lives in prayer and fasting.
The earliest description refers to the Monastery of the Holy Virgin, for the revelation of God at the Burning Bush was seen as a type of the Virgin Mary and the Incarnation. The majestic basilica of today’s Monastery was subsequently built in honor of the Transfiguration of Christ, which reflects the special reverence of the Sinai brotherhood for the holy Prophets Moses and Elias, who both came to this mountain and later spoke with Christ at His Transfiguration. After Saint Catherine's relics were found nearby, the Monastery gradually became known simply as St. Catherine’s, without however losing its earlier dedications.
The architecture of the Sinai monastery is a stone, mortar, and wood record of its existence over seventeen centuries. Fortified walls surrounding the Monastery enclosure were made from massive granite blocks at the command of the Emperor Justinian in the sixth century. The center of this historic ensemble is the aforementioned basilica with its ancient doors and ceiling beams, and famed mosaic of the Transfiguration of Christ in the apse over the holy altar. At the eastern end of the basilica is found the Holy of Holies: the Chapel of the Burning Bush. This is the site of God’s revelation to Moses. Before approaching the immaterial fire of the Bush, Moses was commanded to remove his sandals, and until today, no one may enter the chapel wearing shoes. In the fourth century, the pilgrim nun Egeria wrote, ‘There are many cells of holy men and a church on the spot where the bush stands, and this bush is still alive today and gives forth shoots.’ The bush still flourishes outside the chapel.
To the west of the fortress of Justinian lie the monastery garden, the cemetery, the ossuary, and other supporting structures. On the opposite side of the Monastery, a path leads pilgrims to the peak of Mount Sinai, as well as to the hermitage of Saint Episteme. The area also contains numerous chapels, gardens, and hermitages. Further photos are found in the Gallery.
St. Catherine's Monastery has attracted visitors since ancient times. Many are drawn by its spiritual ideals and to the example of peace for which it stands.
St. Catherine's Monastery and its surrounding area were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002.
The above information was drawn from the website of St. Catherine’s Monastery, which more fully describes the legacy of the Sinai monks’ tradition of faith.