mar saba monastery

Mar Saba Monastery | Ancient History

The monastery of Mar Saba is located in the Judean desert, not far from the birthplace of the Lord – Bethlehem. The Judean Desert – also called the Judaean Desert – is a semi-desert in Israel and the West Bank. It lies between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea and extends to the northeastern Negev. It is characterized by terraces and steep slopes and ends steeply in the Jordan Valley. Numerous wadis, some of which are up to 600 meters deep, cut through them from west to east. Also, the Kidron River or Bach has dug its bed here and flows, leaving a green swath, past the monastery to the east in the direction of the Dead Sea and flows into the Salt Sea here, about 2 kilometers southeast of the village of Avant. The monastery is about 10 kilometers from Bethlehem.

The city of Bethlehem is in the west of Mar Saba. Therefore, two exciting monasteries exist in the Judean Desert: the Monastery of St. George in Wadi Qelt and the Monastery of Theodosius – about 8 kilometers southeast of Jerusalem. Mar Saba is a Greek Orthodox monastery near Bethlehem. The monastery was founded around 483. It was named after its founder, Saint Sabas. In 2005 only 20 monks lived there; in the 7th century, however, there were about 4,000. In the 8th century, the church father, John of Damascus, spent the last years of his life here. So, in the 12th century, the Crusaders stole the body of Saint Sabas buried here and took it to Venice, where it was kept.

History of Mar Saba Monastery

In 1964 the Italian state returned the body, and Saint Sabas was reinterred in the monastery’s cross-domed church. The monastery maintained a form of the old Jerusalem liturgy adapted to its needs until it adopted the Byzantine rite at the beginning of the 2nd millennium. The late antique tropologic (hymnal) used in Mar Saba has survived in Georgian translation. The liturgical typical of the monastery was widely used and, in the Constantinople form that was revised several times, became the enduring guiding principle of the churches of Byzantine tradition. The Sabas Monastery was a major center of Georgian scholarship and literature in the Middle Ages.

In Mar Saba in 864, the monk Makari Leteteli, trained in the Georgian monastery of Chandra (in the northeast of today’s Turkey ), had the Mravaltavi (homilies) Cod. Senate by the calligrapher Ammonites. Aber. 32+57+33+89/N, which he later donated to the Sinai Monastery. In the monastery in 1958, Morton Smith (1915 – 1991) found a copy of one of the letters of Clement of Alexandria. The letter contained fragments of the Secret Gospel of Mark. 

Titus Flavius ​​Clemens, Greek Clemes Alexandreus, was a Greek theologian and church writer. He was born around 150 AD in Athens, and he died around 215 in Cappadocia (Turkey). Today he is known as “Clemens von Alexandria” (Clemens Alexandrinus). The monastery’s location on the slope of the Kidron Gorge is breathtaking. Thsanctuaryry is about 10 kilometers from Bethlehem. 

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Mar Saba monastery was also the home of St. John of Damascus (676 – 749), a key religious figure in the iconoclastic conflict that produced letters to the Byzantine Emperor Leo III around 726. wrote, rejecting his edicts forbidding the veneration of the icons. John worked as a high financial official for the Muslim caliph Abd al-Malik (Omayyad dynasty). He finally felt called to higher things and wandered into the Judean desert, where he was tonsured as a monk and ordained Jerome (monastic priest) in the monastery of Mar Saba. The tomb of John of Damascus is in a cave under the monastery.

The Mar Saba Monastery is essential in the historical development of the liturgy of the Orthodox Church in that the monastic (way of celebrating services) of Saint Sabas has become the standard throughout the Eastern Orthodox Church and the “United” (Eastern Catholic Churches – belong to the Roman Catholic Church). The typical took the standard form of services celebrated in the Patriarchate of Jerusalem and added some specific monastic customs that were local traditions at the Mar Saba monastery. 

From there, it spread to Constantinople and from there throughout the Byzantine world. Tradition has it that this monastery hosts the last Divine Liturgy on earth before the Parousia of Jesus Christ (Jesus Christ’s Second Coming), the final pillar of true Christianity. The monastery is not far from the nativity church (about 15 km). Still, being in Palestinian territory, the navigators do not work, and the road signs are almost non-existent, so you have to resort to the old maps and the indications of the locals, who are always very kind and friendly. 

mar saba monastery

Representation of Mar Saba Monastery


The Lavra of Saint Sabbas (Arabic: Mar Saba) is an Eastern Orthodox Christian monastery overlooking the Kidron Valley. At a point midway between the Old City of Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. Lavra, also called Lavra, Laura. Or Laure is in early Christianity. And later, Orthodox monasticism, a place inhabited by a colony of hermits in the form of cells or caves. In which the monks live separately as hermits but celebrate the liturgy together. And also under an ordinary abbot (abbas). The origins of this eremitic way of life lie in early Christianity – century Egypt and Palestine. 

Indeed, the monastery of Mar Saba is located within the Palestinian Autonomous Territories in the West Bank. And is part of the Bethlehem Governorate. The traditional date for the founding of the monastery by Sabbas the Sanctified. Who was from Mutalaska in Cappadocia, is 483. Therefore, today the complex houses around 20 monks. It is considered one of the oldest inhabited monasteries in the world and retains many ancient traditions. One is the restriction that women are not allowed to enter the monastery area. The only building women can join is the Frauenturmnear, the main entrance. In this monastery are the relics of Saint Sabas. This monastery is also sometimes referred to as Santa Sabba. 

So, the Mar Saba monastery is where King Solomon’s pleasure gardens were located. The area around Bethlehem is relatively rich in water and could therefore be used more effectively for agriculture. However, this seems to be opposed to political reasons. Solomon’s Pools, Arabic: Burak Suleiman, are three major water reservoirs in the south-central West Bank, immediately south of the Palestinian village of al-Khader, about 5 kilometers southwest of Bethlehem.