NEWS

After years of repair work, the medieval refectory opens anew

In the 11th century, when the caliph Al Hakim, persecutor of Christians, visited the Sinai monastery (which was protected by order of the Prophet Mohammed himself), the monks abandoned their Early Christian refectory. It was made into a mosque, which has survived, with its minaret, as the sole example of a mosque inside a Christian monastery. From that time until the mid-20th century, another building of unknown origin and age was used as a refectory. The medieval refectory, a long, spacious room with five gothic arches supporting the roof, was restored by the Hellenic Society and inaugurated on March 27. The architects are Professor Petros Koufopoulos of Patras University and his wife Marina Koufopoulou, who have spent 20 years working on various projects at Sinai. Archbishop Damianos thanked the Hellenic Society, whose president, Costas Carras, reassured him the society’s interest would continue and handed over the symbolic amount of 3,000 euros as a token of friendly support from those who came for the opening. Work on the refectory began in 1977 but stopped when some interesting old frescoes came to light. They have since been removed, conserved and replaced in the restored room along the shorter walls in the niche and the lunette. Among the objects in the refectory are a marble throne, a wooden pulpit and two very old monastery dining tables. The gothic arches bear Frankish inscriptions carved in stone, relics of the Crusaders who also went that way.