Following a three year restoration period, Egypt reopened earlier this week an ancient library that holds thousands of centuries-old historical and religious manuscripts at the prominent St Catherine monastery. `
Established in the sixth century and located in the Mount Horeb area of South Sinai, the library is rich with around 3,300 manuscripts of Christian texts in Greek, Arabic, Syriac, Georgian and Slavonic, among other languages. It is the second most ancient collection after what’s held by the Vatican Library.
According to Tony Kazamias, an adviser to the archbishop, the library also contains thousands of books and scrolls dating to the fourth century; at least 160 of the manuscripts include faint scratches and ink tints beneath more recent writing.
“The palimpsests were likely scraped out by the monastery’s monks and reused sometime between the 8th- 12th centuries,” Kazamias told the Associated Press.
The inauguration ceremony was attended by Egyptian and western officials. They stated that restoration work is still underway but no specific date of completion was announced.
During the renovation, archaeologists discovered hidden historical information, one of which were medical recipes that the Greeks apparently had been using and left behind. Additionally, the library also features various paintings that are currently on display, and are secured by the monastery’s museum.
The officials also inaugurated the Mosaic of the Transfiguration in the basilica of the monastery.
“The mosaic features a rich chromatic range of glass paste, glass, stone, gold and silver tesserae. It was created in the 6th century at the behest of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, who also requested building the monastery,” AP reported.
The town of St. Catherine is in the Sinai peninsula in Egypt at an elevation of about 1600 meters from sea level, at the foot of the Sinai High Mountains. It is a popular tourist attraction as it is the oldest continuously inhabited monastery in the world built on a site that is revered by followers of the three Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.