In the historical course of the Holy Monastery of Sinai, shrines and dependencies have played a particularly important role.
Shrines are smaller or larger building complexes where hermits lived away from the central monastery compound. They generally consist of a chapel, living quarters, and a garden. These provided the ascetic with isolation and quiet for the cultivation of the life of prayer. Some of these shrines have remained simple, and others become more developed over time. The gardens at some of these sites are today maintained by the Bedouin working on behalf of the monastery.
In addition to the shrines on Mount Horeb, the hermitage of Saints Galakteon and Episteme (3rd century) and a lot of shrines spread in South Sinai, there exist four shrines worth noting here. These are the shrine of Saint George Arselaites (6th century) at Wadi Remhan, two shrines at Raitho (one near the ancient lavra, the other in the area of Abu Suera), and yet another in the region of Hodra.
Dependencies are, as a rule, more organized monastic establishments, and are to be found outside the Sinai area. Some of these dependencies will be managed by a member of the Sinai community, and function like a small monastery. Others will be managed by an appointed representative, who may be a clergyman or a layman.
The Sinai dependencies, to be found principally outside of Egypt, reflect the devotion that is manifested around the world towards the Holy Monastery of Sinai. They were widespread, and associated with a particular period of the monastery’s history. In more recent years, a number of these have been ceded to local churches, and this has ensured their preservation to this day. These include the dependencies at Rouen in France, at Messina in Italy, at Calcutta in India, and further dependencies in Spain, Serbia, Georgia, Syria, Lebanon, and Ethiopia.
The monastery’s dependencies in Greece and Cyprus have always been important. There were also renowned dependencies in Asia Minor, in all the Balkan countries, and in Moldovlachia, whose rulers nurtured particular respect for the monastery. There were further dependencies in Bessarabia, in Kiev in Ukraine, and in Russia. In the middle of the nineteenth century, Sinai had more than eighty dependencies throughout the world. Most of these were ceded to local churches with the emergence of nation states, or lost to the monastery at the time of the Russian revolution.
In the Monastery's area, there exist four large historical local dependecies: the dependency of the Forty Martyrs (some two hours by foot from the monastery), the dependency of Saint Cosmas and Damian (some one and one-half hours by foot from the monastery), the dependency of the Holy Apostles, known as Ramba (about one hour from the monastery), the dependency of the Entry into the Temple of the All-holy Theotokos, known as Bostani (less than an hour from the monastery), and a chapel dedicated to Saint Mary of Egypt, below the Chapel of Saints Galakteon and Episteme.
In addition to the chapels located at the peaks of Mount Horeb and Mount Saint Catherine, numerous chapels are to be found in the outlying area. These include a chapel dedicated to the Prophet Aaron, and another dedicated to Saints Theodore. In the valley opposite there are chapels dedicated to the Nativity of the Theotokos, to Saint Onouphrius, and to the Holy Forty Martyrs. The original cave of Saint John Climacus (6th century), at a site called Thola or Tlah, has also been graced with a chapel. There is also a chapel dedicated to Saints Cosmas and Damian.