Egyptian Library With Ancient Biblical Text Reopened
December 18, 2017
The library, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is nestled at the foot of Mount Sinai, where Moses received the Ten Commandments. It was constructed in the 6th century upon the orders of Byzantine emperor Justinian, and recently underwent a three-year restoration process involving the eastern portion of the library, where additional historic texts were found. Among them were some of Hippocrates’ medical recipes.
The St. Catherines Monastery library is believed to house approximately 3,300 manuscripts—mostly Christian texts in Greek, Arabic, and other dialects—as well as thousands of books and scrolls dating back to the 4th century. It is also home to the Codex Sinaiticus, a 4th century copy of the New Testament discovered nearly 200 years ago in the Sinai.
According to Tony Kazamias, an adviser to the monastery’s archbishop, Monk Demyanos, more than 150 of the library’s manuscripts include “faint scratches and ink tints” underneath more recent writing. This strongly suggest the monastery’s monks during the 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th centuries scraped them and reused them.
The reopened library is also home to the Mosaic of the Transfiguration, a 500-square foot depiction of Jesus standing between Elias and Moses. Situated in the eastern apse of the monastery’s great basilica, it features 6th century artistry using glass paste, glass, stone, gold and silver tesserae.