Supervisor Elham AbolFateh
Editor in Chief Mohamed Wadie

Ancient Manuscripts at St. Catherine’s Monastery Undergo Digitization

Thu 18 Apr 2019 | 02:57 PM
Norhan Mahmoud

An ambitious project was launched to digitize thousands of the foremost rare manuscripts reserved at Egypt’s St. Catherine‘s monastery.

One Greek team, as per Reuters, is on a mission of scanning the age-old documents, “using a complex process that includes taking images in red, green and blue light and merging them with computer software to create a single high-quality colour picture.”

St. Catherine’s monastery is located in Mount Sinai, a zone where islamist militants have already ruined numerous cultural monuments and manuscripts as in Syria and Iraq.

In 2017, the Islamic state attacked a police station close to the eastern part of the orthodox church “The Holy Monastery of The God-Trodden Mount Sinai.”

Initially, the team will work on archiving 1,100 Syriac and Arabia manuscripts, out of the 4,500 religious, scientific, medicinal and other documents.

The completion of the whole project may exceed 10 years, as some manuscripts are extremely fragile.

In 2018, the Early Manuscripts Electronic Library (EMEL) launched this project jointly with the library of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and the monastery.

Starting fall 2019, UCLA will publish the photographed manuscripts online.

Michael Phelps, Director of the Early Manuscripts Electronic Library, explained to Reuters that the monastery’s library is of special interest to the global community  as it “is an archive of the history of Christianity and its neighbours in the Mediterranean world.”

Phelps added that the first phase is forecast to cost about $ 2.75 millions and is scheduled over 3 years.

Mount Sinai holds a sacred position in Islam, Christianity and Judaism. It is the site where Prophet Moses received the ten commandments. Thus, the UNESCO listed it as a World Heritage Site.

Historically, St. Catherine’s monastery was established in the 6th century, “and is the oldest Christian monastery still in use for its original function.”

One of the most renowned papers in the library’s is “Codex Sinaiticus”- a 4th century Greek manuscript of the Bible which “contains the oldest surviving complete New Testament.”

“Throughout the centuries, monks have lived here in prayer, in dedication to spiritual goals, a witness to God’s revelation to mankind... in that sense especially, the Sinai Monastery is an ark, a spiritual ark in the wilderness,” said Father Justin of Sinai, the monastery’s librarian to Reuters.