The Sacred and Imperial Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount of Sinai—St. Catherine’s—sits on a mountaintop in the Sinai Peninsula. Very little has changed in this ancient Greek Orthodox monastery, in existence for more than 1,400 years. One can easily believe in revelations in this place, where dark-robed monks work and pray at the biblical site of the burning bush. Revelations have been very much on Michael B. Toth’s mind as he and a global team of scientists and scholars with the Sinai Palimpsests Project have used state-of-the-art spectral imaging technology from the Early Manuscripts Electronic Library to coax secrets from the rich trove of palimpsests—manuscripts from which the original texts were erased in order to preserve scarce parchment—found in the monastery library.
Tonight, Toth describes the work being done at St. Catherine’s, in collaboration with Father Justin, Archbishop Damianos, and the monks, to reclaim precious texts once thought lost forever. Working together, the people of science and people of prayer haven’t always been certain what they’ll find, but in this barren and remote desert region, keeping the faith may be paying off.
Monks in Egypt's Lawless Sinai Hope
to Preserve an Ancient Library
Recently TIME published an article about the preservation and digitization of the St. Catherine's Monastery Library amidst the political situation in the Sinai. Just as they have done for 17 centuries, the Greek Orthodox monks of St. Catherine's Monastery in Egypt's Sinai desert and the local Jabaliya Bedouins worked together to protect the monastery when the 2011 revolution thrust Egypt into a period of uncertainty. "There was a period in the early days of the Arab Spring when we had no idea what was going to happen," says Father Justin, a monk who has lived at St. Catherine's since 1996. Read full article>>