St. Catherine, Moses, St Helena, Justinian I, Napoleon Bonaparte, Muhammad


Saint Catherine of Alexandria 



St Catherine's Monastery at the foot of Mt Sinai is thought to be the place where Moses, one of the major prophets of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, talked to God at the Burning Bush. Mt Sinai is also thought to be the place where Moses received the Ten Commandments from God, and the well at St Catherine's is thought to be the place where he met his future wife, Zipporah.


Saint Helena of Constantinople

St Helena was born in 250 and died in 330. Her son Constantine the Great became the emperor of the Roman Empire around 300 and she became a presence at the imperial court and received the title Augusta. At the age of 80 she was sent on a relic recovery mission to Jerusalem by her son. It was on this mission that she ordered the construction of the Chapel of the Burning Bush.


Justinian I

Justinian was born a peasant around 482 in a small village called Tauresium in Macedonia. He was adopted by his uncle and brought to Constantinople. His uncle Justin became Emperor in 518 with help from Justinian, and Justinian became the de facto ruler after Justin started to become senile. After Justin died in 527 Justinian became the sole ruler. This was around the same time that he started construction St Catherine's defensive wall and magnificent church.


Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon, who was born on 15 august in Corsica, was Emperor of the French who conquered many countries in Europe. During his Egyptian expedition of 1798-99 he ordered some restoration work on St Catherine’s Monastery. After he was defeated he was sent to St Helena Island, named after St Helena of Constantinople (above).



Sources say that Mohammad was born in 570 in the city of Mecca in Arabia and is the founder of Islam. In 623 Mohammad signed a document known as the Actiname (Holy Testament) which exempted the monks from the usual taxes and military service.





The monastery also has items donated by Czar Alexander II in the 19th century, Empress Catherine of Russia in the 17th century, and a silver and enamel chalice from King Charles VI of France in 1411.