Church of the Transfiguration, St Catherine's Monastery
The focal point of the monastery is the Church of the Transfiguration, with a bell tower which dominates the whole complex. Its bells waken the monks every morning with 33 strokes, symbolizing the 33 years of Christ's life.The church, the floor of which is some13ft/4m below present ground level, is entered through a modern porch, from which a flight of steps (the top ones inscribed with the Greek letters spelling the Greek name lakobos, or James) leads down to the Narthex, with an elaborately carved wooden door (sixth C.) which gives access to the three aisled interior of the basilica.The walls of the nave, rising above the aisles and lit by windows, are borne on sturdy granite columns with richly decorated foliage capitals. The aisles, with pitched roofs, are lit by five Byzantine windows on each side. The floor is paved with marble. On the left is a marble pulpit (1787), on the right the Bishop's throne, with an interesting painting of the monastery in the 18th C. by an Armenian artist. Between the columns are crudely carved choir stalls. In the aisles are side chapels, mostly dedicated to saints of the Orthodox Church.
Church of the Transfiguration - Iconostatis
The choir is separated from the nave by a richly painted and gilded iconostatis (Cretan work 1612).
Church of the Transfiguration - Mosaics
On the conch of the apse are magnificent mosaics, probably the work of Western artists, dating from about 565 and excellently preserved. The Transfigured Christ is depicted in an almond shaped mandorla, surrounded by medallions with figures of prophets, apostles and saints. In the choir are a marble sarcophagus containing the remains of St Catherine, a precious reliquary and a coffin like shrine (presented by Empress Catherine of Russia) with an embossed silver gilt figure of the Saint.
Church of the Transfiguration Chapel of the Burning Bush
Beyond the apse, on a still lower level than the nave, is the Chapel of the Burning Bush, probably the oldest part of the church. The walls are clad with blue Damascene faience. A silver plate marks the spot where God is said to have appeared to Moses.