"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Monday, May 23, 2011

St. Catherine's of Sinai

As I have noted previously, the collection of icons at St. Catherine of Mt. Sinai Monastery is among the oldest and most important in the world. Next month a new book will be published to give us greater insights into the collection: S.E.J. Gerstel and Robert Nelson, eds., Approaching the Holy Mountain: Art and Liturgy at St. Catherine's Monastery in the Sinai (Cursor Mundi)) (Brepols, 2011), 590pp.
About this book, which contains 139 black & white illustrations and 30 in color, the publisher tells us:

The first comprehensive study of the monastery of St Catherine at Mt Sinai in its full historical, art historical, and religious dimensions, the nineteen collected essays in Approaching the Holy Mountain provide a unique view of the longest continuously inhabited Christian monastery. As an important pilgrimage site, Sinai enjoyed an international reputation in the Middle Ages. The monastery also benefited from regional connections to Egypt and the Holy Land. The essays in this volume examine the pilgrims, monks, artists, builders, and scholars who came to the mountain and left their marks on the monastery and its holdings, as well as the image of the monastery that was promoted outside of Sinai.

Because of its dry, isolated location in the Sinai desert, the monastery possesses the world's greatest collection of Byzantine icons. These icons have been celebrated in highly popular exhibitions in Athens, London, St Petersburg, New York, and Los Angeles though few longer studies of the icons have been attempted. In this volume, authors investigate icons from the sixth to the sixteenth centuries and offer new interpretations of their meaning, provenance, and function. Essays also explore celebrated illuminated Byzantine manuscripts in the library of St Catherine's, pilgrim's accounts of the monastery, a recently excavated early church on the summit of Mt Sinai, liturgy at Sinai during the first Christian millennium, the influence of Sinai on later paintings and engravings, and the recent history of Sinai studies. The result is a significant advance in our understanding of one of the most important centres of early Christianity.
I look forward to seeing this reviewed in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies.

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