Monday, August 22, 2011

St. Catherine's Monastery in Mount Sinai

Lies on the Sinai Peninsula, at the mouth of an inaccessible gorge at the foot of modern Mount Sinai in St. Catherine city in Egypt at an elevation of 1550 meters. The monastery is Greek Orthodox and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. According to the UNESCO report (60100 ha / Ref: 954) and website hereunder, this monastery has been called the oldest working Christian monastery in the world – although the Monastery of Saint Anthony, situated across the Red Sea in the desert south of Cairo, also lays claim to that title.

Discovery of ancient unknown script – Caucasian Albanian

A devastating fire in 1971 at St. Catherine's Monastery on Mt. Sinai led to the discovery of 1100 manuscripts that had been kept in a crypt below the chapel floor but which had been totally forgotten until they were accidentally discovered during reconstruction of the chapel in 1975. The most significant discovery was a palimpsest manuscript which had Georgian script on the visible layer but an unknown script, which was barely visible on the underlying layer and which turned out to be an ancient Caucasian Albanian text.

In 1990, Dr. Zaza Aleksidze, Director of the Center for Manuscripts in Tbilisi, Georgia, discovered the unknown script. In 1996, he identified it as Caucasian Albanian, a script which has 52 letters based on Georgian, Ethiopian, and Armenian alphabets. The script described a language in the Caucasus that was the ancestor to the language spoken by the present-day Udis, who live in three villages in Azerbaijan and Georgia.

In 2001, Aleksidze was able to decipher his first word – "Thesalonike," referring to passages in the New Testament that St. Paul addressed to the Thessalonians. and he later identified the text of some 300 pages as one of the earliest existing Lectionaries in the Christian religion (5th–6th centuries).


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