The physical components of the Monastery of St. Catherine vary considerable in age, dating from the 6th century right up to the present day, though most structures in the monastery enclosure are older. For example, the newest structure within the compound itself is probably the north wing, built in 1951 to house the Library, the Icon Gallery and the new refectory for the monks, as well as the apartments of the Archbishop of St. Catherine. The bell tower is somewhat older, dating to the 18th century. Most other buildings are considerably older. On the outside of the compound, the visitor’s center is a fairly recent addition.

The monastery

It lies at the foot of Sinai Mountain. It is similar to the middle ages fortresses.

  •  surrounded by a big granite wall
  • There is a tower at each corner
  • It contains buildings that are built above each other. The design of the buildings show that they date back to different periods
  • The main gate is now sealed and another one is opened to the left
  • Within the complex there is the chapel of Virgin Mary at the burning bush built by Empress Helena mother o Constantine
  • Emperor Justinian ordered the building of the church known as the Transfiguration church in the same holy place. Later the church and the monastery were named after Saint Catherine

The original building destroyed along with parts of the wall. The remaining buildings date back to different periods

Monastery of Saint Catherine

The Walls of Monastery of Saint Catherine

To protect the numerous monks who had settled around the Burning Bush, and to withstand the attacks of marauding Bedouins. In addition to and many others who at one time another attempted to assault the monks then living in caves and simple huts. Justinian’s builders under the direction of the architect, Stephanos of Aila (Elath), constructed a fortress of such monumental design that its walls stand little changed after fourteen centuries, except for the northern expanse which damaged several times, and last repaired in 1801 during Napoleon’s Egyptian expedition.

In fact, the fortified enclosure of the monastery built of rectangular hewn blocks of hard granite. The ground plan of the enclosure is somewhat off-square, with sides measuring 75 meters on the west, 88 meters on the north, 75 meters on the east and 89 meters on the south. The height of the walls varies from 8 meters on the south, to 35 meters on the north. The thickness of the enclosure ranges from 2 to 3 meters. Mostly depending on the space that needed for towers, crypts and such. The south wall of the enclosure, which adorned with ancient cross symbols and other stone carvings, faces Mount Sinai, and the best preserved.