Alana Osuna

Alana Osuna

Published: 17 Sep 2023


Saint Catherine’s Monastery is a fascinating and enigmatic place that attracts countless visitors from around the world. Located at the foot of Mount Sinai in Egypt, this ancient Christian monastery holds a rich history and numerous intriguing facts. From its founding in the 6th century to the preservation of biblical manuscripts and its unique architectural features, there is much to discover about this remarkable landmark. In this article, we will delve into 16 enigmatic facts about Saint Catherine’s Monastery, providing insights into its historical significance, spiritual importance, and curious aspects that make it a must-visit destination for history buffs, religious pilgrims, and curious travelers alike.

Table of Contents

The Oldest Monastery in the World

Saint Catherine’s Monastery, located at the foot of Mount Sinai in Egypt, is widely recognized as the oldest continuously functioning monastery in the world. Its origins can be traced back to the 6th century AD, making it an irreplaceable piece of religious and historical heritage.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site

In recognition of its cultural and historical significance, Saint Catherine’s Monastery was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in This prestigious status emphasizes the monastery’s importance not only as a religious institution but also as a unique architectural and artistic treasure.

Housing the Burning Bush

One of the most remarkable features of Saint Catherine’s Monastery is the presence of the Burning Bush, believed to be the same bush from which God spoke to Moses according to the Bible. This sacred relic is located within a chapel on the monastery grounds and is a significant pilgrimage site for Christians.

The Mosaic of Transfiguration

Inside the monastery’s Basilica, visitors can marvel at the magnificent Mosaic of Transfiguration. This breathtaking artwork, dating back to the 6th century, depicts the biblical event of Jesus’ transfiguration on Mount Tabor and showcases the incredible artistic talent of the time.

Home to a Vast Library

Saint Catherine’s Monastery boasts an impressive collection of ancient manuscripts and books, making its library one of the most valuable in the world. With over 3,300 manuscripts, some of which date back to the 4th century, the library is a treasure trove for scholars and researchers.

The Monastery’s Protective Walls

One of the defining features of Saint Catherine’s Monastery is its strong protective walls. These walls were constructed to defend the monastery from attacks and have played a crucial role in its preservation throughout the centuries.

The Icon Collection

Within the monastery, there is a vast collection of icons, including some of the oldest and most valuable in the world. These beautifully crafted religious artworks offer a glimpse into the rich history and culture of the monastery.

The Chapel of the Burning Bush

Adjacent to the monastery, the Chapel of the Burning Bush is a significant place of worship. The chapel enshrines the sacred site where Moses is said to have encountered the burning bush and received his divine calling.

The Iconostasis

The monastery’s main church features an intricate iconostasis, a screen covered with icons that separates the sanctuary from the nave. This ornate artwork adds to the overall spiritual and aesthetic ambiance of the monastery.

Patron Saint and Namesake

Saint Catherine’s Monastery is dedicated to Saint Catherine of Alexandria, a Christian martyr who was known for her wisdom, beauty, and strong faith. The monastery serves as a testament to her enduring legacy.

Protection of the Monastery

Over the centuries, Saint Catherine’s Monastery has faced numerous threats, including attacks by invaders and the harsh desert climate. However, it has managed to survive and thrive thanks to the dedication and resilience of its caretakers.

The Monastery’s Inaccessible Location

Saint Catherine’s Monastery is situated in a remote and rugged area, which has contributed to its historical preservation. The challenging terrain has deterred many potential attackers and helped to ensure the monastery’s continued existence.

St. Catherine’s Library Fire

In 1970, a devastating fire broke out in the monastery’s library, resulting in the destruction of many precious manuscripts. This tragic event serves as a reminder of the fragile nature of historical artifacts and the need for ongoing preservation efforts.

The Role of Greek Orthodox Monks

Saint Catherine’s Monastery is primarily inhabited by Greek Orthodox monks, who dedicate their lives to prayer, contemplation, and the preservation of their spiritual and cultural heritage.

Visitor Restrictions and Pilgrimage

While Saint Catherine’s Monastery welcomes visitors, there are certain restrictions in place to preserve the sanctity of the site. Pilgrims from around the world undertake challenging journeys to reach the monastery, seeking spiritual enlightenment and a connection to its sacred past.

Majestic Views from Mount Sinai

For those who venture to Saint Catherine’s Monastery, the climb up Mount Sinai is a must-do activity. The stunning panoramic views from the summit provide a sense of awe and appreciation for the natural beauty surrounding the monastery.


Saint Catherine’s Monastery is truly a remarkable destination with its rich history, stunning architecture, and captivating legends. As one of the oldest working Christian monasteries in the world, it continues to be a place of pilgrimage and an important cultural and religious site.Visiting Saint Catherine’s Monastery allows you to immerse yourself in the ancient traditions and artistry that have been preserved for centuries. From its iconic library to the stunning mosaics and religious relics, every corner of the monastery holds a piece of history.Whether you are seeking spiritual enlightenment, are a history enthusiast, or simply appreciate breathtaking landscapes, Saint Catherine’s Monastery offers an unforgettable experience. Its remote location adds an air of mystery and exclusivity, making it well worth the journey to explore its enigmatic wonders.


1. Can I visit Saint Catherine’s Monastery?

Yes, Saint Catherine’s Monastery is open to visitors. However, please note that there may be some restrictions on certain areas and entry is subject to the monastery’s rules and regulations.

2. Are there any accommodation options near the monastery?

Yes, there are a few hotels and guesthouses located nearby that offer accommodation for visitors. It is advisable to book in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons.

3. Is it necessary to hire a guide?

While it is not mandatory, hiring a guide can greatly enhance your experience at Saint Catherine’s Monastery. Guides can provide valuable insights into the history and significance of the site.

4. Are there any specific dress code requirements?

Yes, visitors are expected to dress modestly when entering the monastery. Both men and women should cover their shoulders and wear clothing that covers their knees.

5. How can I reach Saint Catherine’s Monastery?

The nearest airport is Sharm El Sheikh International Airport, and from there, you can either hire a taxi or join a guided tour to reach the monastery. It is also possible to travel by bus or private car.

6. Are photography and videography allowed inside the monastery?

Photography and videography are generally not allowed inside the monastery buildings. However, you can capture the stunning exterior and panoramic views of the surrounding area.

7. What is the best time to visit Saint Catherine’s Monastery?

The best time to visit is during the spring (March to May) and fall (September to November) when the weather is mild and pleasant. It is advisable to avoid visiting during the peak summer months, as temperatures can be extremely high.

8. Are there any nearby attractions to explore?

Yes, there are several nearby attractions worth exploring, such as Mount Sinai, the Red Sea Riviera, and the stunning desert landscapes of the Sinai Peninsula.