THE CONVENT OF MOUNT SINAI.
Foundation and Name. — Exterior of the Convent. — We are introduced to the "Brethren." — Character of the Monks. — The Interior. — Strangers' Apartments. — The Mosque. — The Church: Chapel of the Burning Bush. — The Mount of the Cross — Russian Pilgrims. — The Library and Archbishop's Room. — The Refectory. — The Gardens and Cemetery. — Arab Servants. — Arab Traditions relating to the Convent.
THE Convent of Mount Sinai, according to popular tradition, owes its origin to the Byzantine emperor Justinian, who fortified and endowed the little church built by Helena, the mother of Constantine, "on the spot where God spake with Moses." It was at first dedicated to the Transfiguration, until the removal thither of the relies of St. Katharine gave that lady a share in the patronage; and it has since then been generally called the Convent of St. Katharine.
Amidst the cold gray hues and deep shadows of the mountains rise up the graceful forms of tapering cypresstrees, and their dark rich foliage is thrown into harmonious contrast with the lighter verdure of the poplars which grow beside them, and with the varied tints of the olive and almond trees that peep above the wall. Sheltered behind this lovely garden is the monastery, looking very calm and peaceful, and suggesting nothing of the nest of dirt and ignorance within.
It is an ancient castellated building, the eastern side, which faces the valley, presenting a flat wall, composed of large blocks of hewn granite, partly original masonry and partly restored. About thirty feet from the ground is a small wicket covered with a penthouse, like those seen in English mills; through this travelers were formerly drawn up into the convent, though they are now admitted by a side door. A little farther to the south is a buttress tower,