Monastery of Hagia Aikaterine (St Catherine, Deir Sant Catarin)
|Collection||Byzantine Research Fund|
Burrocoss, Mr B.
|Scope and Content||vVew of the Sinai desert.|
|Further information||The monastery of Hagia Aikaterine (St Catherine, Deir Sant Katarin) stands alone in a narrow valley dominated on the extreme left by the Sinai peak. Built of enduring granite by Justinian I in the 6th c., the fortified monastery consists of an outer granite wall with battlements and a main entrance at the centre of the northwest side which leads into a narrow court and, through an arched passage, to the east corner of the monastery church. The two-storey oblong structure on the left of the court, originally a guest house, was converted into a mosque in the 11th c. The katholikon of the monastic complex, a three-aisled basilica with narthex and two square side-chapels must have been commissioned according to surviving inscriptions between 548 and 565. The corner chapels give access to the chapel of the Burning Bush situated between them behind the apse which marks the original area where the Bush itself stood.
The entire decoration of the church -marble revetments, chancel panels, carved door panels and beams as well as the impressive mosaic and fresco decoration of the monument- dates to the Justinian period. The iconography pays tribute to the history of the monastic institution and refers directly to Old Testament episodes/figures closely related with it. Worth noting are the pre-iconoclastic encaustic icons preserved in considerable numbers in the katholikon as well as surviving examples of metalwork which date back to the Justinian period.