Home Beit Sahour & Church Churches & Monasteries St. (Mar) Saba Monastery

Monastery of St. Sava (Mar Saba) East of Beit Sahour

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The monastery is located on the southern part of the Jerusalem desert, built in an amazing archeological structure, with parts above each other, on the top of a hill that is part of a series of hills and mountains. It was built during the year 484 AD by 5000 monks who were there at that time lead by the famous monk of St. Sava.

marsaba1The monastery was destroyed by the Persians in the year 614 AD, and later the Bedouins used to attack it and the monks living in it. It is where Saint John of Damascus also lived, drawn as a priest, and where he wrote more than 1,200 of today's Church troparion poetries.

The monastery is known for harsh monastic life, where it receives Christian believers from all over the world, who live and die in its land, while many tourists visit it just to look.

The residents of the monastery have maintained many of its ancient natural traditions over hundreds of years, while the monks live in it without electricity, water, communication mechanisms, internet, TVs or radios and refuse changing. Their reason for this is that they do not want anything to waste their time, confuse their minds and hence their prayers to God.
Monks live by olive oil candles at night, and drink water from a natural spring that comes out of the ground.
Entry is prevented for women as a rule, where the monks explain that the presence of women creates physical desire, and the monks do not want anything to keep them away from God. The only building that women can enter is the Women's Tower, near the main entrance.

Residents' prayers start at 6:30 in the evening until 10:30 in the morning, then they sleep and go to do other work and arrangements.

The Monastery of Mar Saba contains:

  • Relics of St. Saba the founder: lying in a glass box, his body has shrunk a bit and some of the skin has melted, without embalming, but it was guarded safe by the Lord.
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  • Tomb of St. Saba.

  • First Church of the Monastery, dedicated to St. Nicholas, established in the year 491 AD, and contains Holy relics and a small church of the holy martyrs' fathers who were killed by the Persians in the year 614 AD and by the Barbarians in the year 796 AD. The Lord has revealed this Church to St. Saba, while he was still living with his disciples in the caves, on the other side of the rocky pass, looking for a suitable place top to build the Church on, a pole of light appeared in front of him from earth to heaven. St. Saba understood the divine sign, where a wide wonderful Church-shaped with details in a cave is now at that spot.

  • The Main Church in the Monastery: constructed during the days of St. Sava in the year 502 AD, and dedicated in honor of the Annunciation of the Mother of God, and contains the relics of Saint Sava.

  • Rocky Hermitage of St. John of Damascus: He had lived during the eighth century.
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  • A Basement in the square between the Main Church of the Annunciation and the tomb of St. Saba. This basement leads to the underground monastery cemetery, where the bodies of deceased holy fathers are placed on a table without burial in the ground, which decompose without any unpleasant smell. After a period of time, bones of the deceased monks are gathered, washed with water, and then carefully kept in a side room.

  • marsaba4Justinian Tower: constructed in the sixth century AD, with a height of 18 meters and was used for observation. It includes a library of precious manuscripts.

  • St. Saba Water Spring: below the monastery, at the bottom of the valley, where there are 385 steps from the Justinian Tower until the place of holy spring water. The Lord has revealed the place of the spring to St. Sava to water his monks who were suffering from severe thirst at that time.

  • Hermitage Cells for the Monastery – 110 cells.


marsaba5St. Saba became a monk at the age of 8 years in Cappadocia (Turkey) in the year 439 AD, and came to the Holy Land at the age of 18 years. In 478 AD the angel of the Lord led St. Saba to the current location of the monastery to be built. He was deceased in the year 532 AD, and after some years the Crusaders took his body to Venice-Italy where he was for more than seven centuries before he was brought back to his place in 1965 AD.