Sinai Greek 690

Sinai Greek 690 is a gem. It is a small manuscript, measuring 21.5 centimetres by 15.8 centimetres. It is two centimetres thick. Seven blank leaves precede the first page of text. It is written in a beautiful hand, leaving generous margins. Decorative initials were executed with vermilion and gold. The manuscript contains the service to Saint Catherine. After the Sixth Ode, the Synaxarion lists the feast of that day, and gives a synopsis of the life of the saint.

In this month, on the twenty-fifth, [we celebrate] the contest of the Holy Great Martyr Catherine.

She was from the city of Alexandria, the daughter of a certain king, Constas by name. She was exceedingly fair, and inimitable in beauty, very much in the prime of life, and refined in bodily aspect. She was eighteen years of age. She had been trained extremely well in all Greek learning: Homer, Virgil the greatest poet of the Romans, Asclepius, Hippocrates, and Galen the physicians, Aristotle and Plato, Philistion and Eusebius the philosophers, Jannes and Jambres the greatest magicians, Dionysius, and the Sibyl, and as much art of speaking as was to be found in the world. Not only that, but every word of every language had she learned, which elicited the admiration not only of those who saw her, but also of those who heard of her reputation and learning. Bearing the trial of many tortures under the Emperor Maxentius on account of her confession for Christ, her head was cut off, and she received the crown of martyrdom from the judge of the contest, Christ our true God.

The last folio has a colophon, added in a different hand.

The present small book was written by the Most Reverend Hieromonk and Spiritual Confessor, our Father Joachim Bartzaki, from Crete, in the year 7156, in the month of September, at Sinai the Holy Mountain, for the place itself.

Someone has added in pencil that the year 7156 from Creation corresponds to the year AD 1647.

3 comments to Sinai Greek 690

  • Maria

    So interesting!
    We are thankful to you Father Justin for sharing your precious manuscripts with us..!

  • Norman Hugh Redington

    It would be interesting to know Fr. Joachim Bartzaki’s source for the list of authors. Philistion, who really belongs among the physicians, is someone the historical Catherine would probably have read, but hardly a household name like Plato. I’m not sure who Eusebius is; the only pagan philosopher Eusebius I know of (like the more famous Christian ones) lived I think well after St. Catherine’s martyrdom. Occult works attributed to Jannes and Jambres have always been popular; perhaps here, though, they stand for ‘the wisdom of the Egyptians’. If Dionysius is supposed to be a pagan, he is probably Dionysius Longinus of ‘On the Sublime’ fame, but the proximity to the Sibyl suggests the Areopagite. I wonder if any vitae suggest that St. Catherine was already familiar with Christian (or Jewish) writers before her conversion; one would presume that, if she was an educated woman of Alexandria in that era, she must have been.

    • Father Justin

      I was fascinated by the additional names that are not included in the Life of Saint Catherine published by the monastery in 1817, which I translated (with the help of friends) in 2004. I’m glad you also found these of great interest. Greek 690 mentions that Saint Catherine was eighteen when she was martyred, another fact that is not included in the Life of the saint.

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