Egypt's St. Catherine Monastery library to undergo restoration
Nevine El-Aref, Wednesday 11 Apr 2012
First phase of project to restore St. Catherine’s library - home to world-class collection of ancient manuscripts, icons - will begin next month


After six months of feasibility studies, the library at St. Catherine's Monastery in the southern Sinai Peninsula will be restored and developed to meet international standards.

According to Minister of State for Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim, the project will be implemented in two phases and will include the restoration of the library's eastern and western sections.

The library contains some 3,500 manuscripts in the Greco-Roman, Coptic, Arabic, Hebrew, Georgian, Syrian, Armenian and Udi languages, as well as numerous rare icons and other liturgical objects. It also houses a collection of decrees and regulations issued by the Muslim Caliph of the time, intended to ensure the security of the monastery's Christian population.

The restoration project is being financed by the monastery and carried out under the supervision of the Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA).

Mohsen Sayed, head of the MSA's Islamic and Coptic department, noted that the monastery had been placed on the Egypt Heritage List in 1993 and the World Heritage List in 2002.

The Monastery was first built by order of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, who reigned from 527 to 565 AD. It contains the Chapel of the Burning Bush, construction of which was ordered by Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine I, on the site where Moses was said to have had his famous vision. The building is also referred to as St. Helen's Chapel.

The monastery is run by the Orthodox Church of Mount Sinai, which is headed by an archbishop who is also the abbot of the monastery.

The monastery complex houses priceless works of art, including one of the world's best collections of ancient icons, liturgical objects, chalices and reliquaries.

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