Egypt reopens ancient library in the Sinai after the renovation

A picture of the mosaic of the transfiguration which covers the area of 46 square meters in the basilica of the monastery of st. Catherine is shown on Saturday, december 16, 2017 in the South of the Sinai, Egypt.


Egypt reopened on Saturday, an old library, which is filled with a treasure trove of ancient religious and historical manuscripts at the St. Catherine Monastery in South Sinai.

The ceremony is on the UNESCO World Heritage site, attended by Egyptian and Western officials, comes after three years of restoration on the east side of the library houses the world’s second largest collection of early codices and manuscripts outside of the Vatican, the Monk Damyanos, the monastery archibishop, told the Associated Press.

“The library is now open to the public and to scholars,” Tony Kazamias, an advisor of the archbishop, she said, adding that the restoration is still underway.

The Associated Press reports that the old library has about 3,300 manuscripts of mainly Christian texts in Greek, Arabic, Syrian, Georgian and Slavic, among other languages. It also contains thousands of books and scrolls dating back to the 4th century.

During the library renovation, archaeologists apparently found some of Hippocrates’ centuries-old medical recipes. The ancient Greek physician, is commonly regarded as the “father of Western medicine.”


This Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017 photo shows a statue of St. Catherine monastery in South Sinai, Egypt, where there was a ceremony for the opening of the old library.


“The most valuable manuscript in the library is the Codex Sinaiticus, (which) dates back to the 4th century,” the Rev. Justin, an American monk working as the monastery of the librarian, told the AP. “This is the most expensive manuscript in the world,” and refers to the ancient, handwritten copy of the New Testament.

The library possesses several old paintings that are currently displayed in the monastery’s museum.

“There are beautiful paintings in the manuscripts. If you the (pages) there is a flash of gold and colors. It is a living work of art,” said Justin.

The officials also initiated into the Mosaic of the Transfiguration located in the eastern apse of the monastery is the basilica. The mosaic covers 46 square metres and features a rich chromatic range of glass paste, glass, stone, gold and silver tesserae. Jesus Christ is pictured in the middle between the prophets Elijah and Moses. The 6th-century mosaic was made by order of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, which is also requested construction of the monastery.

Officials walk around the great hall of the recently opened Saint Cathrine Old Library in the South of the Sinai, Egypt on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017.


St. Catherine’s, where the monastery is located, is an area that is worshipped by the followers of the Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Such as the Old City of Jerusalem, it has become a popular destination and an attraction not only for pilgrims, but also tourists from all over the world.

The 6th-century monastery, one of the oldest in the Christian Orthodox religion, is home to a small number of monks who observe the prayers and daily rituals unchanged for centuries. The well-preserved walls and buildings are of great significance to studies of Byzantine architecture. It is located at the foot of Mount Sinai, known as Jebel Musa, or Mount Horeb, where Moses is said to have received the Ten Commandments.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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