Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Column On Which St. Katherine Was Beheaded in Alexandria

Saint Katherine's Marble Column of Beheading at the Monastery of Saint Savvas in Alexandria

The Monastery of Saint Savvas the Sanctified in Alexandria and specifically the central church, before it became a Christian house of prayer, was dedicated to the god Mithra or, according to other witness, to the god Apollo. It was established as a Christian church, dedicated to the Apostle and Evangelist Mark around 318-320, when 40 Christian churches were established in Egypt by Imperial permission of Constantine the Great.

During the next few years cells began being built and the settlement of monks around the church began too. Following the break away of the copts from the Alexandrian Church and the creation of the Coptic Church, the Monastery became the Seat of the Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria (circa 536). Around the mid 7th century, the Monastery was destroyed by an earthquake and was rebuilt by sponsorship from a wealthy Alexandrian Christian named Savvas in honor of St Savva, because the saint lived in Alexandria before he requested the quiet of the monastery he established in Jerusalem.

During the Arab occupation of Egypt, the monastery was set alight and was renovated around 889 at the time of Patriarch Michael of Alexandria by the intercession of Emperor Leon IV the Wise to Khalif el Moutamez. It was renovated from scratch by Patriarch Ioakeim Panis (1487-1567). The monastery was rebuilt (1676) by Patriarch Paisios (1657-1677) following a fire in 1652 and the loss of all the monks who were buried under its ruins.

During the French occupation, Napoleon ordered its destruction because of military priority which was then recalled following strong resistance by Patriarch Parthenios II Pancosta (1788-1805).

The monastery was also renovated in 1875 by Patriarch Sophronios IV (1870-1899) through generous sponsorship by the national benefactor George Averof. Limited renovations were made by Patriarchs Photios (1900-1925) and Christoforos II (1939-1967). The risk of collapse led Patriarch Nicholas VI (1968-1986) to the decision to demolish the building, except from the church and the building of a new monastery. Various renovations were done by the late Patriarch Petros VII (1997-2004) and also by Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa during the first years of his tenure as Patriarch.


During its historic course, the monastery, apart from the Patriarchal Seat was also a cemetery for Patriarchs, clergy, monks, Orthodox and other Christians, a home for the poor, a hospital, clinic, school, quarantine center, hostel and refuge.

Nowdays, thanks to the personal concern and care of Patriarch Theodoros II, the Patriarchal Academy "Saint Athanasios" has been reopened and it is being hosted in the premises of the Holy Patriarchal Monastery of Saint Savvas. The aim of the Patriarchal Academy is the preparation and education of the staff and colleagues coming from the African nations, so as to be competent in organizing the missionary work of the Patriarchate, mostly of humanistic orientation; this aim is being pursued through the teaching of Theology, Foreign Languages, Nursing, Agriculture and Computer Science. Furthermore within the Monastery there are being housed an Ecclesiastical Museum, part of the Patriarchal Library, and the Lyceum of Greek Alexandrian Women.

In the Monastery's Cathedral pilgrims can venerate on the one hand the Marble Column, on which, according to the Christian tradition, Martyr Saint Katherine was beheaded, and on the other hand the Holy Relics of many Alexandrian Saints. What is more at the Cathedral's Holy Altar, which is the center of the monastic life of our Church, Saint Nektarios of Pentapolis, was ordained priest at the end of 19th century.


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