A man is reflected on the glass which contains a Christian manuscript and a cross at Saint Catherine's monastery, in the Sinai Peninsula, south of Egypt, December 8, 2015. Picture taken December 8, 2015. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh TPX IMAGES OF THE D
CAIRO – 17 December 2017: After a three-year restoration, the first phase of St. Catherine Library includes the restoration of manuscripts, rare books, packaging and mosaics. They aim to secure them at the highest level of preservation for international status of the monastery.
Abdel Reheem Rihan, director general of Research, Archaeological Studies and Scientific Publications in Sinai at the Ministry of Antiquities, said to Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper that the library, which is an architectural unit within the monastery, has great spiritual and scientific significance to the monks.
Rihan added that St. Catherine Library dates back to the 6th century. It consists of three rooms in a row. The middle room was previously a monk’s council. “The library contains 1,000 modern books in addition to 6,000 manuscripts, including 2,319 Greek manuscripts, 284 Latin manuscripts, 600 Arab manuscripts and 86 Georgian manuscripts, besides Syrian, Coptic, Ethiopian, Slavic, Amharic, Armenian, English, French and Polish manuscripts,” Rihan recounted.
These manuscripts range from religious, historical and philosophical to geographical. The most ancient manuscripts date back to the 4th century. Some of these manuscripts were written in Sinai, while others were written in Palestine, Syria, Greece and Italy.
Rihan elaborated that some manuscripts bear the name of the copiers, such as deacons Soliman, George and Nicholas in the 12th and 13th centuries. The library contains 1,000 documents that show the development of Arabic calligraphy between the 12th and the 19th centuries.
The 600 Arab manuscripts contain valuable scientific, historical, philosophical, intellectual and cultural studies. The most obvious feature in the Arabic manuscripts that have Christian character is the presence of Arab-Islamic influence. Many of the Arabic Christian manuscripts start with “Basmalah” (the typical Muslim way of beginning a text in the name of God and also the beginning of all but one chapter of the Quran) and conclude with praise to God and the Hijri calendar date.
Many of these manuscripts were decorated with carvings, drawings and decorations in the form of birds, flowers and plants in calligraphy. The library also hosts the Greek Bible known as “Codex Sinatikos”, which is the oldest version of the Bible.
The most important collectibles of the library are the Syrian Gospel and the Prophetic Document. The Prophetic Document contains Prophet Mohamed's promise to the Christians that they will always be safe.
St. Catherine Library contains the famous book of Prophets. Each of its 400 papers holds two columns of gold-colored writing with a colored picture of Jesus and the saints drawn in exquisite colors.