NEWS & EVENTS

MORGENLAND VILLAGE
The town of St.Catherine is in the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt at an elevation The town of St.Catherine is in the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt at an elevation.

 

 
History

Pharaonic Era

 

Although Saint Catherine wasn't established as a city at that time, yet it was always part of the Egyptian Empire throughout history and it was part of the province of "Deshret Reithu".

In the 16th century BC, the Egyptian Pharaohs built the way of Shur across Sinai to Beersheba and on to Jerusalem. The region provided the Egyptian Empire with Turquoise, gold and copper, and well preserved ruins of mines and temples are found not far from Saint Katherine at Serabit Al-Khadim and Wadi Mukattab, the Valley of Inscription. They include temples from the 12th Dynasty, dedicated to Hathor, Goddess of Love, Music and Beauty, and from the New Kingdom dedicated to Sopdu, the God of the Eastern Desert.

Roman Era

 

Located at the foot of Mount Moses, St. Catherine's Monastery was the start of the city, it was constructed by order of the Emperor Justinian between 527 and 565. It is built around what is thought to be Moses' Burning Bush, which has a chapel built atop it. It is a spectacular natural setting for priceless works of art, including Islamic mosaics, Greek and Russian icons, Western oil paintings, paintings on wax, fine sacerdotal ornaments, marbles, enamels, chalices, reliquaries, including one donated by Czar Alexander II in the 19th century, and another by Empress Catherine of Russia in the 17th century.

The Monastery

 

The Monastery of St. Katherine is the oldest continuously inhabited monastery in the World and its library has the largest religious collection after the Vatican. It was built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in the 6th century AD, although there was already a church at the site of the Burning Bush erected by the Empress Helena in 330 AD. Byzantine Orthodox monasticism has even earlier roots, and the area is sacred to all three monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

RELIGIOUS PLACES:

Beyond the many religious places found around the Monastery of St. Katherine and on the top of Jebel Musa (Mt. Sina) and Jebel Safsafa there are many other churches, monasteries and holy places in the area and a bit furhter afield. The most notable ones are described below.

The Chapel of St. Katherine is on the summit of Jebel Katherina, the mountain where the body of the saint from Alexandria was placed by angels, according to Christian beliefs. The saint, born as Dorothea in 294 AD, was educated in pagan schools but converted to Christianity for which she was executed. Her body vanished, but some three centuries later, monks guided by a dream found it on the mountain. It was brought down and placed in a golden casket in the Monastery what became known since the 11th century as the Monastery of St. Katherine.

Hajar Musa (Rock of Moses) in Wadi el Arbain, where Prophet Moses fetched water from the rock. A holy place to all the big monotheiostic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Locals believe the twelve clefts on it represent the twelve springs mentioned in the Quran (Sura 2:60). It is also mentioned in the Exodus as the rock which sustained the children of Israel (1 Cor. 10:4). There is a small Orthodox chapel next to it. According to Swiss orientalist Johann Ludwig Burkhardt the Jebeliya Bedouin believe "that by making [female camels] crouch down before the rock [...] the camels will become fertile and yield more milk". There is also a Bedouin marriage proposal rock in the walled compound.

The Monastery of the Forty Martyrs, in Wadi el Arbain "was constructed in the sixth century in honor of the forty Christian martyrs who died in Sebaste (central Turkey). Monks relate that forty Christian soldiers from the Roman Army in the third century were commanded to worship pagan gods. They refused and were put to death by being exposed at night to the bitterly cold winds off a frozen lake. Those who survived until morning were killed by the sword. [...] In the grounds of this monastery is a chapel dedicated to the hermit Saint Onuphrius. Coming from Upper Egypt, he was said to have lived for seventy years in the rock shelter at the northern end of the garden, until he died in AD 390."

The Monastery of Cosmas and Damianos in Wadi Talaa, named after the martyred brothers who were doctors and treated locals for free in the 3d century AD. The garden of the monastery, looked after by a Bedouin family, has a long olive grove, some tall cypress trees, other fruit trees and vegetables. There are more gardens belonging to the Monastery further down in the wadi.

The Chapel of Saint John Klimakos, or St. John of the Ladder, was built in 1979 in Wadi Itlah to commemorate his devotional work in the 6th century AD. Also spelled St. John Climacus or Climax, the saint spent forty years in solitude in a cave above the existing chapel.

The People

 

The traditional people of the area, the Jebeliya Bedouin, have been living in the region for over 1400 years. In the 6th century AD the Byzantine Emperor Justinian ordered to build St. Catherine monastery (Jebel El Tur Monastery as it was named at the time) and brought about 200 Roman soldiers with their families to protect the monastery. Hundred of these men were brought from Egypt and the other hundred were brought from different parts of the Byzantine empire, mainly from the Black Sea territory. According to different accounts they are from Romania, Macedonia, Greece or Anatolia. The Jebeliya refer to them as of Romanian or Greek descent.