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What is St. Catherine's monastery?

St. Catherine's monastery in the SinaiThe Christ Pantocrator icon that clearly might have been sourced from the image found on the Shroud of Turin is located at St. Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai.

The full name of the monastery is The Sacred and Imperial Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount of Sinai. It is more commonly called The Holy Monastery of Saint Catherine or more simply St. Catherine's. It sits at the base of Mount Sinai, a mountain in the southern-most region of the Sinai desert most commonly believed to be the mountain where Moses saw the Burning Bush and received the Ten Commandments.

the Greek Orthodox monastery dates back to the fourth century. It claims to be the oldest, continuously active Christian monastery in the world. Today, the monastery includes a 6th century church and fortifications built by the Byzantine emperor Justinian the Great, a Muslim Mosque, buildings and gardens, and beyond the old fortifications a scattering of hermitages.

According to a document in the monastery’s archives, the Charter of Privilege, thought to have been granted by the Prophet Muhammad and signed with his hand print in C.E. 682, the monastery and its monks (and all Christians) are to be protected until the “Last Day.” It reads:

This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them. Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them.

Today, as they have done for hundreds of years, monks work with Muslim Bedouin tribesmen to make and distribute “daily bread” to the population surrounding the monastery. 

In addition to Saint Catherine’s vast library, second only to the Vatican libraries in the number of ancient manuscripts, the monastery houses the world’s most significant collection of religious icons. 


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