Saint Catherine's Monastery

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Saint Catherine's Monastery commonly known as Santa Katarina lies on the Sinai Peninsula, at the mouth of a gorge at the foot of Mount Sinai in the city of Saint Catherine in Egypt's South Sinai Governorate. The monastery is Orthodox and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built between 548 and 565, UNESCO report 60100 ha / Ref: 954 states this monastery is one of the oldest working Christian monasteries in the world together with the Monastery of Saint Anthony, situated across the Red Sea in the desert south of Cairo, which also lays claim to that title. In the area around the monastery, a small town has grown, with hotels and swimming pools, called Saint Katherine City.

According to tradition, Catherine of Alexandria was a Christian martyr initially sentenced to death on the wheel. However, when this failed to kill her, she was beheaded. According to tradition, angels took her remains to Mount Sinai. Around the year 800, monks from the Sinai Monastery found her remains. Though it is commonly known as Saint Catherine's, the full, official name of the monastery is the Sacred and Imperial Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount of Sinai, and the patronal feast of the monastery is the Transfiguration. The relics of Saint Catherine of Alexandria were purported to have been miraculously transported there by angels and it became a favorite site of pilgrimage.

The monastery library preserves the second largest collection of early codices and manuscripts in the world, outnumbered only by the Vatican Library. It contains Greek, Arabic, Armenian, Coptic, Hebrew, Georgian, and Aramaic texts.

In May 1844, Konstantin von Tischendorf visited the monastery for research and discovered the Codex Sinaiticus, dating from the 4th Century, at the time the oldest almost completely preserved manuscript of the Bible. It left the monastery in the 19th century for Russia, in circumstances that are now disputed. It was later bought by the British Government from Russia and is now in the British Library. Prior to September 1, 2009, a previously unseen fragment of Codex Sinaiticus was discovered in the monastery's library.

In February 1892, Agnes Smith Lewis identified a palimpsest in St Catherine's library that became known as the Syriac Sinaiticus and is still in the Monastery's possession. Agnes and her sister Margaret Dunlop Gibson returned with a team of scholars that included J. Rendel Harris, to photograph and transcribe the work in its entirety. As the manuscript predates the Codex Sinaiticus, it became crucial in understanding the history of the New Testament.
The Monastery also has a copy of the Achtiname, in which the Prophet Muhammad is claimed to have bestowed his protection upon the monastery.

The most important manuscripts have since been filmed or digitized, and so are accessible to scholars. This is certainly not the case for the discoveries of 1975, which previously could be viewed and evaluated exclusively by Kurt Aland and Barbara Aland from the Institute for New Testament Textual Research in M√ľnster, Germany in 1982. A team of imaging scientists and scholars from the USA and Europe is currently using spectral imaging techniques developed for imaging the Archimedes Palimpsest to study more than one hundred palimpsests in the monastery library.
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