Saint Catherine’s Monastery is built at an altitude of 1600 m. on the Mount Sinai, nowadays called Gebel Musa (Moses’ Mountain), on the south part of the Sinai peninsula.
The settlement of the monks in this hostile and deserted place began probably in the 3rd century. However, the history of the monastery itself begins with the construction of the three-aisled basilica and the fortification walls by Justinian I (527-565). The construction must have been executed between 548 (year of the death of Theodora) and 565 (year of the death of Justinian), as it is assumed by the inscription preserved on beams of the roof. Another inscription on the same spot preserves the name of the basilica’s architect, Stephen from Aila (nowadays Aqaba).The church was initially dedicated to Transfiguration and the monastery to Panagia. The dedication to Saint Catherine, which still remains, was established around the 11th century after the discovery and the transfer of her relic in the church between the 8th and the 9th century.
The monastery’s function, after the spread of Islam in the 7th century, was assured by the hand-sealed testament of Muhammad (Ashtiname), the power of which, was even recognized by the Ottoman conquerors.
Beyond its undeniable spiritual offer, the monastery is also a big cultural “vault” with a plethora of manuscripts and portable works of art. From 2003 indeed, the monastery belongs in the Catalogue of the Monuments of World Heritage by UNESCO.
Today, the Monastery of Saint Catherine is a worldwide famous pilgrimage, which accepts large numbers of pilgrims and visitors.