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Greek Orthodox priest at St. Catherine's Monastery in the Sinai


Greek Orthodox priest at St. Catherine's Monastery in the Sinai



Title from negative sleeve.
Taken either by the American Colony Photo Department or its successor, the Matson Photo Service.
Guide card: Sinai.
Photograph taken from in front of the 6th century CE basilica, looking northeast and showing the triangle-shape western façade of the basilica and Gebel El Dier (Selib-Baraka) and Gebel Meraja in the background to the right from a 0.9 km distance, the bell tower in centre-left, and the whitewashed medieval minaret to the left. (A. Shams, Sinai Peninsula Research, 2018)
An estimate of 530 to 600 monks lived in the monastic settlements across the mountain range at the height of monasticism in 4th-7th centuries CE, where less than 100 monks lived inside Saint Catherine Monastery on its construction between 530 and 545 CE by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I (527-565 CE) (Uzi Dahari, 2000). John Climax the Syrian hermit of Mount Sinai and later Igumen (Abbot) of Saint Catherine Monastery, also known as John of the Ladder and John Sinaites (525-March 30, 606 CE), wrote the 'Ladder of the Divine Ascent' of the 30 steps around 600 CE [580-603 CE (?)]. The number of monks ranged between 300 and 400 monks in 1000-1336 CE and has remained below 50 monks since 1700 CE (Joseph Hobbs), and is around 25 monks in early 21st century CE. The monks dress the full ceremonial garments in major feasts, e.g. Easter, Saint Catherine on November the 25th, etc. The roof of the basilica consists of two layers of wooden beams made of cypress or pine. Justinian's roof of 6th century CE was made out of eight wooden beams, and another layer was added in 18th century CE. Several inscriptions were found on Justinian's wooden beams from 6th century (547-565 CE). The whitewashed 12m high medieval minaret was constructed during the Fatimid period in early 12th century CE, when a former pilgrimage guest house and chapel of Saint Basil was transformed into a mosque. The monastery's bell tower was constructed in 1871 CE next to the 6th century CE basilica. (A. Shams, Sinai Peninsula Research, 2018)
Gift; Episcopal Home; 1978.

The G. Eric and Edith Matson Photograph Collection is a source of historical images of the Middle East. The majority of the images depict Palestine (present-day Israel and the West Bank) from 1898 to 1946. Most of the Library of Congress collection consists of over 23,000 glass and film photographic negatives and transparencies created by the American Colony Photo Department and its successor firm, the Matson Photo Service. The American Colony Photo Department in Jerusalem was one of several photo services operating in the Middle East before 1900. Catering primarily to the tourist trade, the American Colony and its competitors photographed holy sites, often including costumed actors recreating Biblical scenes. The firm’s photographers were residents of Palestine with knowledge of the land and people that gave them an advantage and made their coverage intimate and comprehensive. They documented Middle East culture, history, and political events from before World War I through the collapse of Ottoman rule, the British Mandate period, World War II, and the emergence of the State of Israel. The Matson Collection also includes images of people and locations in present-day Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, and Turkey. Additionally, the firm produced photographs from an East African trip. The collection came to the Library of Congress between 1966 and 1981, through a series of gifts made by Eric Matson and his beneficiary, the Home for the Aged of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the Diocese of Los Angeles (now called the Kensington Episcopal Home).







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