After we climbed Mount Moses, we visited Saint Catharine’s Monastery. It was at the bottom of the Mount Sinai. People from all over the world travel there to see its religious treasures. It is the oldest Christian monastery in existence and has some of the greatest icons and manuscripts. It even contains what is thought to be a descendent of the original Burning Bush from the story of Moses in the Bible. Saint Catharine or Catharine of Alexandria was a Christian martyr. She was raised as a Pagan and a philosopher, but converted to Christianity and managed to convert many others. The Roman Emperor Maximinus had her imprisoned and sentenced her to death by the wheel (a torture instrument) because she would not change her religion. It is said the wheel miraculously broke when she touched it. She was then beheaded. It is also said that her body was carried by angels to Mount Sinai. This is where the monastery was built in her honor by Emperor Justinian around 550 AD. Everyone was extremely tired since we had just climbed Mt. Moses. We had to wait in line outside the monastery. It was so busy. There was a large group of Nuns in front of us. They were so excited to be there. Inside the monastery, we saw the descendant of the Burning Bush. It was very large and healthy. There had been attempts to take pieces of it and grow more bushes in other places, but all of these attempts failed. The bush will only grow in that place. We also saw the Well of Moses. It is the only source of water for the monastery. We saw a lot of Christian icons, which are some of the oldest in existence. It was absolutely gorgeous. The chapel area was heavily decorated. It was very fancy and similar to the elaborate decorations found in Catholic cathedrals I have seen in England. The Christian icons of the saints and the Virgin Mary with baby Jesus were not realistically painted; however, we were told this was done on purpose since these religious figures are meant to be seen as something greater than the images of humans. I am not a religious person, but the monastery and story of Saint Catharine was very touching. She was a Pagan who studied the great philosophers and found reason and guidance in a faith (Christianity) that was not only unpopular where she lived, but it was even persecuted. She devoted her life to converting people to Christianity and even suffered and died for her faith. I will never understand how one could have such a strong faith in a god that’s existence is not proven nor a god that can allow so much evil to occur in the world, but I still admire her will and courage to face death.
Posted at 10:26 AM by Gina Osburn