In 1995, His Majesty King Charles III, then HRH Prince of Wales, visited Saint Catherine’s Monastery, bringing attention to this ‘great spiritual treasure’ and its need to be preserved for future generations.
Special focus was placed on the unique manuscripts of the Monastery library. Kept in the dry desert environment, artefacts dating back as far as the 4th Century AD had survived remarkably well but needed specialist attention.
Funds were raised to train one of the Monastery’s Fathers in conservation and preservation, but it quickly became apparent that he alone would not be able to tackle all the work needed to protect and preserve the manuscripts and their valuable bindings.
The Saint Catherine Foundation was founded in 1996 to support the Monastery, helping to raise funds for the essential work to conserve and preserve these historic manuscripts, and provide the access to technologies for the wider sharing of original research and learning.
We are proud to have had The former Prince of Wales as our Royal Patron. Since before the inception of the Saint Catherine Foundation in 1996, HM The King has been committed to Saint Catherine’s Monastery and the historic artefacts that reside there.
Sitting between Asia, Europe and Africa, on the site of the Burning Bush, Saint Catherine’s Monastery is unique, both in geographical and historical importance. It is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Saint Catherine’s Monastery is the oldest continuously inhabited monastery in the world and is home to one of the oldest manuscript libraries in the world, housing the second most significant living collection of Christian scriptures, after that of the Vatican.
The library preserves over 3,300 manuscripts, two-thirds of which are in Greek, but it also includes Arabic, Syriac, Georgian, Slavonic, Polish, Hebrew, Armenian, Latin, Persian, Caucasian Albanian and Christian Palestinian Aramaic texts. These manuscripts offer a rich tapestry of life through the Middle Ages.
The Codex Sinaiticus, the earliest-known full copy of the New Testament, was preserved in the Monastery. Written in an elegant uncial hand, it is thought to have been one of the fifty copies commissioned by the Emperor Constantine in the 4th Century. The main body of the Codex is now in the British Library, yet 12 pages and 24 fragments of the original manuscript are still cared for at the Monastery.
The Monastery is also home to the Codex Syriacus, a palimpsest with underwriting from the 5th century and one of only two manuscripts in the world that preserve the text of the Old Syriac translation of the gospels.
The Monastery library contains over 8,000 early printed books, including editions of the Holy Scriptures and patristic and classical texts, such as Homer (1488), Plato (1513), the Comedies of Aristophanes (1498) and the earliest printed book in the collection: Juvenalis, Satyrae, Treviso: Michael Manzolus, (1480).
Saint Catherine’s Monastery is the oldest continuously-operating monastic community in the world.
Christian anchorites first flocked to the mountainous area of South Sinai in the 3rd century and, from the 4th century, pilgrims followed in search of the holy sites of Scripture.
In the mid-6th century Emperor Justinian commissioned a fortified enclosure, two basilica churches (one within the enclosure) and ancillary buildings to be erected. By the early 7th century, and especially after the coming of Islam in the 630s, anchoritic life had moved within the walls, taking sanctity in the fortress and creating the Monastery.
Over the following centuries, Mount Sinai and the Monastery at its foot became a pilgrimage site for Muslims, Jews and Christians of all denominations. The association with Saint Catherine, dating to the 13th or 14th century, renewed pilgrim interest from across Europe. This continuous traffic, as well as the spiritual radiance and resilience of the resident monastic community, explain the wealth of the Monastery’s library and its extraordinary collection of icons, offerings, liturgical vessels and vestments.
©The Saint Catherine Foundation. All rights reserved. The Saint Catherine Foundation is a registered charity in England and Wales (Charity Number 1053138). We are also a company limited by guarantee (Company Number 3091163).