Egypt Magic [1499]
Saint Catherine Monastery in Sinai, Egypt.
“Catherine” is an Egyptian saint, not Greek, as they had previously reported. She is the daughter of Costas, the head of one of the noble families in the Egyptian governorate of Alexandria. Catherine lived in Egypt during the reign of the Roman Emperor Maximianus, between the years 305 to 311 AD, and these were pagan days. Still, she believed in Christ and converted to Christianity, prompting the emperor to issue orders to torture her until she retracted her faith.
According to historians, this torture did not affect her faith, and she discussed 50 scholars. They believed in Christ, so the emperor ordered her to be tortured and beheaded in 70 AD. It is said that after several centuries of her murder, one of the Sinai monks saw in his dream that the angels carried the remains of her body to the top of a mountain near the monastery; when the monks went up there, they found the remains. They buried them there and named the mountain “Saint Catherine”.
Saint Catherine Monastery is located in South Sinai, below Mount Catherine, the highest mountain in Egypt, near Mount Moses. It is said that he is the oldest monastery in the world. It is considered a big tourist attraction, as it is visited by tourist groups worldwide. Its dangerous terrain characterizes the region where the monastery is located. Its moderate climate in summer is frigid in winter as if it is part of Europe due to the heavy snowfall in it in the winter.
The monastery is managed by its president, who is the bishop of Sinai, who is not subject to the authority of any patriarch or sacred congregation but has close relations with the patriarch of Jerusalem. Therefore, the name of the patriarch of Jerusalem is mentioned in the masses, although guardianship of the monastery was for long periods of the Russian Orthodox Church, monks and priests of the monastery Like the Greeks, not Arabs or Egyptians, just like the bishops of the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem, which the Greeks have long dominated. Besides the monastery, the Bishop of Sinai runs the holy churches and shrines in South Sinai in the Tur region, the Ferrand Oasis and Tarfa.
The true history of the construction of this monastery is not known, as some accounts mention that who ordered the building of the monastery, Empress Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine, in the year 342 of the birth of Christ in honour of St. Catherine. Still, the planning of the monastery did not indicate anything of that.
But what was reached by Emperor Justinian, who ordered the actual construction of the monastery in the year 545 AD at the foot of Mount Musa, may God bless him and grant him peace, to protect the Sinai monks from the frequent Bedouin raids.
The monastery contains the remains of Saint Catherine, who used to live in Alexandria, and the monastery is one of the oldest monasteries in the world. The monastery attracts groups of tourists from all parts of the world. It is still now the monuments displayed in the monastery is one of the most famous symbolic religious groups in the world, and the monastery includes many wonderful contents.
Contents of St. Catherine Monastery:
Church of the Transfiguration:
It is the Church of the Transfiguration in the northern part of the monastery, and it is sometimes called the Great Church or the Cathedral. It is built in the basilica style, which was common, at the time of its construction in 527 AD, in the era of Emperor Justinian, who built this church for his wife as a dedication to her love and honour.
The Church of the Transfiguration is the focal point of the monastery and the dominant of the entire complex built by order of the Byzantine Emperor Justin; its wooden door is elaborately engraved, and the church includes three heavy granite columns separating the corridors from each other, and its walls are decorated with paintings of saints from top to bottom. There is a mihrab containing a wonderfully decorated sarcophagus carrying The remains of Saint Catherine and presented the coffin as a gift from Empress Catherine in Russia. Behind the mihrab located a chapel.
The church contains one of the most beautiful mosaic paintings, which is the most famous in the entire monastery and is the painting of the Transfiguration, which dates back to the year 542 AD and depicts the transfiguration of Christ and is surrounded by the prophets, saints and messengers.
You stand inside the church; you take awe, spirituality, and a feeling of the heart beating. You see two rows of columns, numbering 12 columns representing the months of the year, and on each side, there are 4 structures, each bearing the name of one of the saints.
At the front of the church, there is a domed place with mosaics, it is considered one of the most famous Christian mosaics in the whole world, and it is not matched in its artistic value except the mosaics of the Hagia Sophia Church in Istanbul. These mosaics represent scenes from the Old and New Testaments.
At the top of the mosaic is the main view that represents Christ in the centre and to the right of the Virgin and the left of Moses, while Peter is lying at his feet. On the wall, there are two scenes, one of which represents Moses receiving the law over the Sinai Mountains, and the second representing Moses and he knelt before the tree.
Under the ceiling of this dome, you will see the sarcophagus inside which the remains of Saint Catherine’s corpse were placed inside two silver boxes, in one of which is the skull of the saint and on top of the box is a crown of gold inlaid with precious stones. The other contains on her left hand, which is filled with golden rings and precious cloves.
Everywhere inside the church is surrounded by major historical icons, which number about 150 icons out of about 2000 icons, among them rare icons made in the sixth century AD.
Inflamed bush tree:
Blackberry Tree “. One of the wonders of the botanical world that is unique to the Sinai Peninsula, and which still fascinates all visitors of the Monastery of St. Catherine of various nationalities, so they feel the sanctity of those who approach it, as it is the only one of its kind in the world.
“It does not grow anywhere, and all attempts to cultivate it on any other soil have failed.”
The bush tree in the monastery of St. Catherine is the sacred tree that the prophet of God Moses saw as fire when he saw a branch of the tree burning and the fire increasing while the branch is growing green, the fire does not burn the greenery, nor the moisture of the greenery and its water extinguishes the fire, and then heard the voice of “God” Almighty.
And the text of the Noble Qur’an indicates climatic features of the region where the tree is located, indicating that it is frigid, where the prophet of God, Moses, begged a tree of wood to light it, to warm it up, as it came in the words of God Almighty: “I have forgotten a fire, so that I may bring it to you with good or good.” “You confirm that the verses apply to St. Catherine, the coldest region in all of Egypt because it is about 1,500 meters above the sea level.
There are other assurances about the sanctity of the blackberry tree, as this tree has special secrets that are not available in any plant. It has been green throughout the year, and it also has no fruit, pointing out that although there are other trees of blackberry in Sinai, this tree is unique, and attempts to replant it Failed in all regions of the world and witnessed by the German traveller “Thermal”, who visited Sinai in 1216, noting that “the inflamed bush tree took away and parts of it were divided among Christians to keep it as valuable ammunition.”
Also, archaeological facts affirmed the tree’s religious and climatic uniqueness as Empress Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine, came in 336 AD to make a pilgrimage to the “Holy Valley” and witnessed the sacred tree. Built in its arms a small church still today and launched the beginning of pilgrimage trips for all Christians of the world to visit the sacred tree and Mount Moses In Sinai, the trips to the valley continued. So far, the same ancient rituals continued from the mountain rise and crossing the gates of recognition and forgiveness, then going up to the top of the mountain and landing to visit the Monastery of St. Catherine through the entrance of the old pilgrims in the northeastern wall, adding that in the sixth century AD Nie Emperor “Justinian” months, the monasteries of the world in the valley, which included inside the sacred tree bush.
Saint Catherine Monastery Museum:
To the west of the Church of the Transfiguration, a group of stairs leads to the Monastery Museum, also known as the Holy Treasury. The museum includes various collections of religious, artistic, and symbolic manuscripts in addition to a beautiful display of beautiful treasures dating back to antiquity and in the first room of the museum, you can see one of the most famous symbols in the whole monastery, which is a painting dating back to the 12th century AD and on the lower floor of the monastery are a collection of parchments and manuscripts that belong to the oldest scriptures in the world.
Al-Deir Library:
The monastery library contains many of the greatest manuscripts found in the world and many valuable ancient manuscripts that total to more than 2000 manuscripts, including manuscripts in Greek, Syriac, Persian, Amharic, Arabic, Turkish and Russian.
Monastery Gardens:
Outside the monastery walls to the northwest, a group of beautiful gardens are shaded with tall trees and flowers, and these gardens produce a variety of vegetables and fruits.
You can see the Jewish temple, the mosque’s minaret, and the church’s lighthouse combined from this garden. Next, the bush tree remains throughout the year green and not affected by any weather factors, and scientists took roots from it to restore its germination in other places, but no attempts were made to do so.
The greatest adventure was trying to enter the cemetery contained in that garden, as life and death in the monastery are embodied inside it that takes the long triangle shape that extends in the desert. Its wells dug by the first shepherds of the monastery to collect rainwater, snow and torrents, with a room where the remains of monks are collected. Attached to it is a small temple called the Temple of “Driven”, and under it is a place for the bones of the dead, where the dead are buried in a small cemetery. Their bones are later transferred to it, sometimes their bodies as they are, and the bone collection is usually returned since the monastery’s foundation.
At first, glance, when you see this room, fear and dread possess you when you smell the scent of death around you. At the same time, you watch the skulls and bones of the dead and the remains of the most famous monk there. He is the hermit Stephen, who wears the Autism Askim and is placed in a special box, and then you will know that the monks of the monastery decided not to open this room for visitors after they caused Air currents to break up some skulls and their fragility.
You will leave the place, but your memory will not be able to forget every inch in it. You will not see what you have seen anywhere else throughout your life, no matter how long you live, leaving behind the wall surrounding the monastery, built with granite stones, and its height exceeds 15 meters. It is crossed in the corners like medieval forts to return to another place.
Skulls room of Saint Catherine Monastery:
It is not just a name but rather contains many skulls and skeletons, and it is a room filled with dozens of skulls and bones standing in front of a great structure for a monk in his body as if he was leading it, to come to the mind of the viewer to this scene the question: Who are these?
How were they killed?
Tony Casamias, an advisor to St. Damianus, Archbishop of Sinai for the Greek Orthodox, and head of the Monastery of St. Catherine, confirms that the “skulls room” inside the monastery already contains skulls and human bones belonging to the forty martyrs of the ancient monks who tried to persuade Catherine to worldly life while she was able to persuade them to life Divine.
The forty martyrs lived on the mountain for a while, and when Catherine’s father passed away, and her uncle assumed power, he tried in many ways to restore it. She did not give in to him, so he came with his soldiers and slaughtered forty because they could not persuade Catherine to return, and they were the first martyrs in the place.
Chamber location
“Casamias” explains that this room is located at the bottom of a private church to hold prayer and memorial for the monks in the monastery. A room tops it near the ceiling that has wide windows from which the strings of the sun that break over the skulls infiltrate and leave shadows of awe, adding: this is usually the Orthodox monks, after their death For a while, the grave is exhumed, the remains are exhumed and placed in this room. The head is placed in a dedicated place, the arms in a special place, and the legs in another place with the remainder of their bones. Hundreds of skulls are stacked on top of each other hierarchically.
The “leader” of the martyrs
The counsellor of St. Damianus added that in the middle of the room, a complete skeleton is erected for the monk, Constantinus, who is fully dressed in his priestly clothes, and he is the monk, Constantinus, who constructed the gates of repentance on the path of Mount Moses. Also, in the room, from the monks’ point of view, there is a kind of cues and crossing at the end of man.
Al-Dir Mosque:
This mosque dates back to the Fatimid era, where the construction of the Fatimid Caliph ordered the rulings of God in the year 1106 AD.
The Holy Valley Mosque in Saint Catherine is one of the most important and famous mosques of South Sinai, built inside the Monastery of Saint Catherine, the most famous monastery in the world. It embraces the mosque’s minaret with the church tower. There are three niches and a wooden pulpit dating back to the Fatimid era, in addition to a minaret of granite stone.
The mosque is located in the northwestern part of the monastery of St. Catherine and faces the main church in it. Its minaret embraces the tower of the church, pointing out that its rectangular layout is its southern wall 9.88 meters and the north 10.28 meters east 7.37 meters and the western 7.06 meters height from the inside 5.66 meters divided into six parts by semicircular contracts Of granite stone carved three decades parallel to the qibla wall and four perpendiculars to it.
There are three mihrabs in the mosque, the main mihrab crowned with a four-centred niche, such as the one in the old part of the Al-Azhar Mosque. It has a wooden miniature verse in the beauty that is one of three complete wooden platforms from the first Fatimid era, which is the minbar of the Hassan bin Saleh Mosque in Bahnasa in Beni Suef and the second minbar of the Omari Mosque in Qus.
As for the minaret, it is at the top of the mosque from the eastern side, consisting of two square floors, the first of which is three meters in width three and a half meters and ends with a balcony that stands out 50 cm from the wall, which reaches 75 cm in thickness. The second floor is square, the length of two and a half meters; the wall thickness is 50 cm.
The construction of the mosque inside the monastery confirmed the tolerance between religions in Egypt. It was built during the reign of the Fatimid caliph, the ruler of God’s rulings in the year 500 AH 1106 AD, and the evidence for this is the presence of a candlestick chair of wood inside the mosque with a written text from the era of construction in which the name of the originator of the mosque, which is Abi Al Mansour The Emiri “is related to the caliph, the commander of Ahkam Allah, who built this mosque and three other mosques, one of them is on Mount Moses so far, at an altitude of 2242 meters above sea level and the other in Ferran Valley, one of which is on Mount Mill in Wadi Feran at 886 meters above sea level.
The mosque also has a written text engraved on the front of its pulpit in Kufic script, and this confirms that the construction of the mosque was in the era of the ruler of God’s rulings, whose name is in this text, the date of construction, and the name of the originator of this pulpit dedicated to the mosque, which is the best bin Badr al-Jamali in 500 AH.
The construction of the mosque in the monastery was the fruit of the good relations between Muslims and Christians that reached its climax in the Fatimid era, in which the tribes of Sinai, including the Jabalia tribe, prayed for Mount Musa and the specialists of the monastery’s affairs, as well as the tribes outside the monastery.