Mike Aquilina

California Dreamin’

Sunday October 22nd 2006, 3:03 am

The treasures of St. Catherine’s have come down from Mount Sinai and crossed over to L.A. The International Herald Tribune reports on a long-running exhibit of St. Catherine’s icons at the Getty Museum. Patrologists of the Left Coast, make time for this. (Hat tip: PhDiva.)

Mount Sinai in Egypt is perhaps best known as the site where Moses encountered the burning bush and received the Ten Commandments.

But also in this desolate desert landscape, Justinian, the Byzantine emperor in Constantinople, in the middle of the sixth century ordered the construction of a monastery, St. Catherine’s, that has become the oldest continuously operating Christian monastic community. Over the 1,400 years of its existence, St. Catherine’s has accumulated one of the finest and most extensive collections of religious icons in the world.

Now, many sacred treasures from the Greek Orthodox monastery are to be shown for the first time abroad. The exhibition “Holy Image, Hallowed Ground: Icons from Sinai” will be on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles from Nov. 14 to March 4…

The exhibition will feature approximately 43 icons – holy images regarded as sacred in the Eastern Orthodox church – including some of the oldest surviving Byzantine examples, as well as illuminated manuscripts and liturgical objects…

The highlight of the exhibition is a sixth-century icon of the apostle Peter, notable for both its antiquity and its realistic portrait style. A wave of iconoclastic zeal in the eighth and ninth centuries led to the destruction by the Byzantine emperors and their forces of almost all icons in Constantinople, and few examples predating that period have survived. But because of its remote location, St. Catherine’s was unaffected by the upheaval.