Mar Saba Monastery

The Greek Orthodox monastery of Mar Saba or Saint Saba’s Monastery; 14.5 km east of Bethlehem and a further 6 km from St. Theodosius Monastery; is considered to be the oldest ongoing inhabited monastery in the Holy Land and one of the oldest inhabited monasteries in the World, founded by Saint Saba of Cappadocia in the year 439. The immense and spectacular monastery built into the rock overlooking the Kidron River, with its griddle of walls and towers, is a thrilling shock when it suddenly comes into view in the midst of this desertland. It represents a way of life unchanged since the time of Constantine. It has 110 cells and sheltered 4000 monks in the 7th century although today it only houses ten monks. Despite the fact that Mar Saba is reputed to have had a long tradition of hospitality to strangers, women have never been allowed to enter. This regulation persists today, so female visitors must be satisfied with a glimpse of the chapel and buildings from a nearby two-storey tower on the right entrance, the so-called Women’s Tower.

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