Tag Archives: Monastery

Mount Temptation

In the fourth century, the Monk Chariton, from Iconium in Turkey, established this monastery. The Monastery of the Temptation is built into a cliff overlooking the city of Jericho rising 350 meters above sea level. The earliest monastic establishment here was built in the 6th century over the cave traditionally thought to be where Jesus spent 40 days and 40 nights. Saint Helena in 326 identified this as a holy site, in her pilgrimage.

Monastery of the Temptation.

Church of the Temptation.

It was a laura, that is a community that has both solitary and community lifestyles.

This cave deep into the monastery is a place of prayers and pilgrimage.

The icon screen in the monastery church.

The Virgin Mary and John the Baptist offering prayers of intercession to Christ.

Fresco of the Crucifixion.

Gazing heavenward towards Christ, the Pantocrator, the Almighty.

Another view gazing heavenward.

The Virgin Mary presenting the Christ Child to the world. After the Baptism in the Jordan River, the Spirit drove him into the desert. According to ancient Christian tradition, this monastery commemorates the Mount of Temptation.

Notice how the chapels are carved into the pre-existing caves of the mountain.


Looking down from the Mount of Temptation to Jericho and beyond to the River Jordan.

The Mount of Temptation in depth – Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land

Mosaics of Saint Gerasimus Monastery

This mosaic is at the foot of the icon of the Virgin Mary who holds her Son who is the source of the living water. The connection is stunning.

Next to the image of the deer slaking their thirst for living water is this floor mosaic.

Notice the anchor (hope); the pomegranate in the lower right hand corner is a symbol of the resurrection and hope of eternal life. The many seeds represent the many believers who have been washed clean in the blood of the Lamb and united in one Catholic Church. The seeds from the pomegranate are also likened to Christ bursting forth from the tomb.

Grapes and baby animals all symbolize the renewal of creation through the Resurrection of Jesus.

Simple fresco.

Another early Christian tradition associates this cave with the Holy Family during their refuge from flight from Herod the Great.

Floor mosaic camel.

Saint Gerasimus

The Monastery of Saint Gerasimus was founded in the 5th century near the cave of Saint Gerasimus, who participated in the Council of Chalcedon. it was destroyed by the Persians in 614, and rebuilt by the Crusaders; restored in the 12th century; rebuilt in 1588; destroyed around 1734, and reestablished around 1885.

Icon screen in the major church. Notice the influence of Western art on the icons.

Although Saint Gerasimus was born in Lycia in southern Turkey his monastic quest led him from Turkey to the monastic establishments of Egypt and then on to Palestine near the river Jordan, where he established a monastery near the Jordan River near Jericho. His feast is March 5 in the West and March 4 in the East, as he is venerated in both West and East. One charming story in his hagiography is that he pulled a thorn out of the paw of a lion, which is commemorated in the mosaic work in the church. It is one of many beautiful mosaics in the monastic establishment.


A beautiful Tau cross in a geometric circle. Saint Anthony of the 3rd century and one of the first Christian monks used a crutch in the shape of a Tau. When he visited another monk, he would place the cross outside the cave as a symbol of communion of God.

Entrance into the Monastic Chapel.

The intricacy of the mosaics is truly stunning.

The Cave Church also has some beautiful floor mosaics.

Monastery of St. George of Choziba

In November of 2016 after I had conducted a tour to the Holy Land I remained a few days in order to explore some of the monastic establishments in the desert. The monastic charism is very vital to the life of the church but oftentimes underestimated by the average Christian.

Early in the morning I left Jerusalem and drove on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. The monastery is located on Wadi Qelt which parallels the road leading to Jericho, setting of the story of the Good Samaritan. I walked through the valley, which some relate to Psalm 23, the “Valley of the Shadow of death,” about an hour’s walk through the desert to the monastery. In the 4th century several monks gathered in this location where they believed Elijah had been fed by ravens.

Walking to the monastery of Saint George of Choziba.

Not far from the city of Jericho, as I walked through Wadi Qelt, under the cliffs of the mountain, the monastery is situated by the river’s northern bank.

A footpath descends over a stream bed and then continues to the monastery.

Here in the heart of the Judean desert green trees flourish sprouting from the rocky terrain surrounding the stone buildings of the monastery.


In the early 5th century several monks lived in cells in the cliffs. John, a monk from Thebes in Egypt arrived about 480 and established a monastery dedicated to Mary, Mother of God. This is the icon screen in the monastery Church of Saint George.

Central Dome of Monastery Church.

Bishop’s chair in the Monastery Church.

Tomb of Saint George of Choziba. He survived the Persian conquest in 614 and died in 620 and was eventually canonized as a saint of the church.

Exterior of the church of the monastery of Saint George.

Notice the natural cave formations in the side of the mountains where monks established their cells for solitary life.


Remembering An Ethiopian Monastic Adventure a Year Later

DebreDamo-3Last year this time I was preparing to fly to Ethiopia in order to visit ancient Christian churches and monasteries and come to a deeper appreciation of Ethiopian Christian art. One dream was to visit the monastery of Debra Damo. This video gives you an insight into the challenge I faced to scale the side of the cliff in order to gain access to the monastery. I am happy I did it a year ago because I’m not sure if I could do it again.


A Monastery in Montenegro

Thursday, August 27. We started the day with another great breakfast on the hotel terrace. Today was to be primarily a driving day to Montenegro.

We drove several hours, making a rest stop about a half hour from the border of Montenegro, in Shkodra. Shkodra is an ancient medieval town, but also important in the revolution against the Communists. It was a bustling city with a great deal of traffic. Our experience was limited to pedestrian mall with a great many cafes. They were primarily filled with young people. A mosque was on the mall.

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Shkodra mosque.

Shkodra mosque.

We reached the Montenegro border, stopped at the border crossing and went from a country with a Muslim majority to one with a Eastern Orthodox majority. We drove along Shkoder Lake, shared with Albania. This is a fertile area with vineyards and fruit orchards.

Shkodra Lake, Montenegro


Balkan Alps near Moraca Monastery.


As we continued we ascended into the Balkan Alps with steep peaks and deep gorges. In time we made another rest stop at a roadside restaurant where we sampled the local grappa. In Montenegro they infuse the grappa with fruit. We tried the apricot and quince. It is strong drink but fortified us for the rest of the journey. Maybe it was the fruit.

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High in the Alps we came to the Moraca Serbian Orthodox Monastery founded in the 13th century. The church is dedicated to the Assumption of Mary and a small chapel is dedicated St. Nicholas. It had incredible frescoes and a beautiful crucifix on the icon screen. The grounds were beautifully landscaped backed by high peaks. There were many people there and the monks were attending them. Father Tom wondered how much peace they enjoyed as it was on a busy highway.

Church of the Assumption.

Church of the Assumption.

Facade of the Assumption Church.

Facade of the Assumption Church.


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Gazing heavenward.

Gazing heavenward.

Church of Saint Nicholas.

Church of Saint Nicholas.

We arrived at the ski lodge in Kolasin where we will spend the next two nights (elevation 3000 ft).

Tomorrow we spend the day at Dumitor National Park.


Monastery in the Mountains

The day concluded with a visit to a replica of a Thracian tomb discovered accidentally in 1944 near Kazanlak. You can no longer gain access to the original tomb however they have created a model so it can be appreciated.

This mural represents a Thracian couple at a ritual funeral feast.

Notice the beauty of the horses.

The tomb waa a vaulted beehive structure from 4th century BC and it gives an insight into the opulence of the culture and its high degree of technological advancement in architecture.

Koprivshtitza Village

Koprivshtitza is a village of authentic Bulgarian architecture of the national revival of the 19th century.

On this bridge the first shot was fired that initiated the April uprising of 1876 against the domination of the Ottoman Empire.

An outstanding example of domestic architecture.

Troyan Monastery

Troyan monastery was an ascent into the incredibly beautiful mountains.

The monastery courtyard.

The Troyan monastery is dedicated to the Holy Mother Assumption.

It was built at the beginning of the 17th century by hermits from Mount Athos.

The hermits brought the miracle-working icon of the Holy Virgin Troerouchitsa, the three handed Holy Mother from Mount Athos.

Gazing heavenward.

The frescoes are an eminent work of Zahary Zograph.

The iconostasis is a supreme masterpiece of woodcarving.

The monastery was also a hospital during the Russian-Turkish war.

The monastery was a literary and revolutionary center. They gave asylum for rebels resisting Ottoman tyranny.

Transfiguration Monastery


The Transfiguration monastery near Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria, was founded in the 11th century as a cloister of the Vatopedia monastery at Mount Athos.

The wheel of life is one of the exterior paintings of the 19th century.

The exterior icon of the Transfiguration.

20150523_021201.jpg  The icon screen.

Assumption of the Virgin which is on the west wall.

Gazing heavenward.

The Resurrection.

At the time of the Ottoman conquest, the Muslims burned the church to the ground in the 15th century. In 1832 by a firman of the sultan allowed construction but the exterior must be low to show the superiority of the Islamic religion.

Scenes from our Lord’s life.

The last judgement. The soul is being weighed. The bad deeds out weigh the good. There is only one act of mercy and for that the the angels are tipping the scales: mercy outweighs justice. (You can see the devils trying to grab the weight pans). The soul has only one act of mercy and the angels are determined to win the tug of war with the demons.

Preparing for another baptism.

In the chapel of the Holy Spirit people place their petitions in the wall.

Beautiful sight that shows confidence in prayer.

Bachkovo Monastery

Plovdiv-043757The Bachkovo monastery of the Mother of God is one of the oldest and largest Orthodox monasteries in Europe from 1083.

The monastery church.


The refectory of 1601 has great artistic value.

Plovdiv-044706This depicts the Council of Nicaea that triumphed over Arius whom you see on the floor.

The Jesse tree.

The Last Judgement.


The Visitation.

The Visitation.

Saints Helena and Constantine.

Inside the church is the wonder working icon of Virgin Mary Eleusa of 1310 brought from Georgia. This is one of the three miraculous icons in Bulgaria.

Plovdiv-045736Gazing heavenward.


The current church was built in the 19th century over the prior church destroyed by the Muslims of the Ottoman empire.

Stunning Frescoes of Boyana

The mountains where the monastery is located.


The Boyana church, on the outskirts of Sofia, Bulgaria, is a medieval church from the late 10th to early 11th century. The frescoes are stunning however photography is not allowed inside. They are an exceptional achievement that overcomes the stylisation of icons with individuality and vitality. When I looked at these I thought of Giotto and the Scrovengi chapel in Padua and marveled that these predate Giotto by 70 years. There are incredible nuanced shades of color and a perspective not seen in icons and frescoes.

When I started to identify themes my driver turned to me and said: “I went to school during Soviet times when we were deprived of religious education in school and have to make up for that with self study. The Soviets,” he said, “were masterful in that they deprived you of your legacy by trying  to erase it.” The art professor, Pierre Graber from Paris stated that these are the most precious contributions of Bulgaria to the world.

Saint John Rilski Monastery

Painted doorway

The entrance to the monastery.

Saint John Rilski was the first hermit monk in the desert; that is he lived in a cave in the forest. The library is the richest in Bulgaria.


The original church burnt so a new one was built in the 19th century.

Gazing Heavenward. You are not allowed to take pictures inside the church. The exterior photos give you some idea of the beauty of the interior that has an awesome 19th century golden icon screen.

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The 14th century tower.

The tomb of Neofit Rilshi who is the 19th century monk who is the father of pedagogy in that he established a school at the monastery where he wrote grammar and lexicons and textbooks.


This is an active monastery among the 60 active monasteries in Bulgaria. The museum guide said there are baptisms everyday.