Miniature work adorns many of the treasures at Sinai, including ecclesiastical works in metal, tiny wood carvings, and objects executed with gold embroidery. These may exist in their own right, or may exist in combination of any of the above materials.

Some of these were votive offerings of important rulers or noblemen, or religious leaders or monastics. Others were gifts of families, or of various towns.

These were made in various workshops, and whether executed in Europe, in Russia, or in one of the provinces of the Ottoman Empire, they all reflect the radiance of Sinai and the devotion in which Saint Catherine and her holy monastery were held. These offerings have been preserved at Sinai, often in the midst of great difficulties, because of their intrinsic significance as emblems of artistic and spiritual significance, and ultimately, of faith.


The Sinai monastery possesses numerous works executed in metal. This is the more surprising when one considers that such works were often sold when the monastery was in great financial need, or given to various rulers as gifts. This was especially true in the 11th century. As a result, only a few works survive that date from before the twelfth century. But from the 13th century, such works become progressively more numerous.

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In the text of Justinian’s Neara to the Holy Monastery of Sinai, specific mention is made of the care that should be reserved to the liturgical vestments of its abbot. To this day, the simplicity and austerity of the monastic habit is in stark contrast to the liturgical vestments of the clergy, which testify to the significance of the celebration of the Holy Mysteries of the Church. One is reminded, also, of the ornate vestments that were directed to be made for the High Priest and his ministrations in the holy tabernacle. These vestments are gifts of faithful rulers and pilgrims to the holy monastery, which cares for them with great diligence.

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The most significant examples of woodcarving at Sinai are to be found in the catholicon and date from the sixth century. These include the four-leaved doorway made of cedar of Lebanon at the entrance into the nave, and the beams in the ceiling above, each of which is carved with a different design, but all of which harmonize perfectly with each other. These are carved with a variety of animal and plant motifs, executed with a sure hand and great skill. There are also important examples of wooden doors dating from the Fatimid period, in which designs of great geometric complexity are executed with each piece held in place by tongue-and-groove joinery.

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