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The Church of the Forty Martyrs

In the valley to the south of the monastery, there is a church dedicated to the Holy Forty Martyrs. The area around the church has been planted with hundreds of olive trees. The site is known in Arabic as Wadi el Arbain.

This may be the place called Kodar in Ammonius’s account of the fourth century Forty Martyrs of Sinai. From archaeological evidence, we know that there has been a church there for centuries, though there are few historical references to the site. Friar Felix Fabri visited the church in 1483, and mentions ‘the pleasant garden of the Monastery of the Forty Saints’.

Today, the church is dedicated to the Forty Martyrs of Sebastea. This year, the feast coincided with the Sunday of Saint John Climacus. Father Michael celebrated the Divine Liturgy there, accompanied by several pilgrims who were visiting the monastery. It takes about two hours to walk up the narrow valley to the Church of the Forty Martyrs.

The church is surrounded by a three storey fortress where there are storerooms, monks’ cells, and a kitchen. In the garden below, an apple tree still had blossoms, and a pomegranate tree was putting out new leaves.

Balconies project from the upper rooms, with views over the valley.

The holy table and synthronon of the small chapel have been there for centuries. The present templon and tile floor are more recent.

Father Michael commemorating names as he prepares for the celebration of the Divine Liturgy.

The simple templon is adorned with icons. Some of these are painted, and others are paper prints.

The icon of the Hodegetria, the Directress, in which the All-holy Theotokos holds Christ in her left hand, and points to him with her right.

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