St. Catherine’s Monastery: An Ark In The Wilderness
Saint Catherine's Monastery is the world's oldest continuously inhabited monastery, with a history extending back over 1700 years. In the mid-nineteenth century, it was at this monastery that what became known as codex Sinaiticus was discovered. It is the only known complete copy of the Greek New Testament in uncial script. Although this codex is now kept in the British Museum, St. Catherine’s library contains manuscripts famous throughout the world for their antiquity and for the range of languages that appear in the collection. Father Justin will show five manuscripts in particular that have been studied by scholars within the last year, as a way of demonstrating the continuing significance of the Sinai manuscripts for our understanding of the Scriptures and of the heritage of the Church.
Father Justin was born in Ft Worth, Texas, in 1949. He lived in Chile until the age of nine, after which his family moved to El Paso. After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin in 1971, he entered a Greek Orthodox monastery three years later. He was tonsured a monk in 1977, and ordained deacon and priest the following year. He has been a member of Saint Catherine's Monastery since 1996, where his responsibilities have included the photography of the Sinai manuscripts with a high-resolution digital camera. Five years ago, the members of the community elected him librarian.
Monastery of Saint Catherine in Sinai: the conservation of the mosaic of the Transfiguration.
The mosaic of the Transfiguration in the basilica of the Monastery of St. Catherine's in Sinai was
done in the 6th century at the behest of the emperor Justinian. It has a rich chromatic range of
glass paste, glass, gold and silver tesserae and tesserae in stone and it is a jewel of early Byzantine
art. Over the centuries, it has suffered extensive damage due to earthquakes and intense visitation
by pilgrims from all corners of the world. Some of the signs of deterioration were detachment
of the preparatory layer from the wall, bulges in the mosaic surface, and lacunae (gaps) in
the tesselatum. The area of Christ was so badly decayed that the mosaic was close to collapse, as
an article of Kurt Weizman on the National Geographic reported in 1964. These problems led the
monastic community to undertake a delicate program of consolidating and conserving the mosaic,
and the CCA, Center for Archaeological Conservation, Rome, was asked to do the restoration. The
actual work began in 2005, thanks to financing from the Emir of Qatar, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa
al Thani, following a project plan the CCA developed in 2001 for the Getty Conservation Institute
(GCI). The mosaic will be open to the public during Spring 2011.