CAIRO – 13 February 2022: Saint Catherine's Monastery, located at the foot of Mount Sinai, is recognized as the world's oldest continuously operating monastery.
The history of the site can be traced back to the fourth century AD when the Roman Empress Helena called for the construction of a sanctuary. Later in the sixth century, Emperor Justinian established a monastery on the site with a mausoleum and fortified walls.
Today, the library of St. Catherine's Monastery possesses evidence of its rich history in the form of more than 4,000 rare manuscripts from the Middle Ages and before. These include religious documents such as the Codex Sinaiticus, and the oldest written copy of the New Testament compiled in the fourth century.
The St. Catherine's Library also contains works on history, philosophy, and medicine in 13 different languages including Latin, Arabic, Aramaic and Syriac.
In 2011, the University of California Library and the non-profit research organization, the Early Manuscripts Electronic Library (EMEL), began working in St. Catherine to implement multispectral imaging of documents and manuscripts. Some 300 unread texts since the Middle Ages were revealed and unknown languages were even discovered in the process.
To preserve the library's cultural heritage collection, UCLA and EMEL have continued their work beyond the original plan to digitize the monastery's entire collection. Its scope is second only to the Vatican Library, and it has long attracted scholars and visitors from all over the world.
Inside St. Catherine's Monastery - Social media
According to Discover magazine, researchers are currently working through Syriac and Arabic manuscripts, including documents related to the Islamic Golden Age that stretched back to the eighth and thirteenth centuries. Ancient Greek knowledge was translated into Arabic and scientific and cultural achievements were enhanced.
The project team aims to produce around 400,000 images of rare documents in the first phase alone which is due next March.