This weblog is about Athos. But every now and then I have to report something not directly related to the Holy Mountain, because of its importance or beauty. Today I will show some photos of the Greek orthodox monastery Mar Saba – Saint Savvas – in Palestina (or Israel if you like), that I visited on the 2th of March this year.
Its history is unique and amazing and the founding dates back to the year 483, when the Holy Father St. Savvas gathered with other hermits in the Judean desert, in the Kidron valley. The hermitage grew slowly and in 502 AD the first main church was build. And until this day we can count 1536 years of unceacing monasticsim on this spot. Read the full history here on the site of Mystagogy.
I took a taxi from Bethlehem and payed 120 shekel to get there (about 10 km). The cab driver waited for me to take me back. On arriving at the monastery religious women from a East European country were standing at the main entrance to pray and kiss the walls. Just like on Athos, women are not allowed to enter the monastery! Today only 12 monks remain: according to the monk I spoke it is difficult to find novices who want to live here in the (hot) desert……
The relics of St. Savvas are still in the main church and where shown to me by a nice monk, who gave me a quick tour in the church (and who spoke perfect English). The story about the remnants of St. Savvas is extraordinary: the crusaders stole the corps during the first crusade (1096 -1099) and took it to the church of Saint Antonin in Venice. The relics of St. Savvas were returned by the Catholic church in 1965, read more about this here.
Let’s have closer look at the monastery, first at the interior of courtyard chapel – nr 5.
Wasil told that is possible to sleep in the monastery and stay the night over. Beware, non-orthodox pilgrims are not allowed in church. The monk I spoke had many reasons not to include other Christian believers, because they made the wrong choice……. But he was thankful for the gift I gave him: incense made by Father David from kellion Timiou Stavrou in Provata-Athos!
Wim Voogd, 20-03-2019