The desert is undoubtedly one of those places that brings solitude and calm to those seeking it, and when you first catch a glimpse of St. George’s Monastery in the Judean desert, you can’t imagine a better place for experiencing peace and calm.
This amazing cliff-hanging monastery–one of the world’s oldest and definitely one of the most inspiring churches in the Holy Land–is a must-see for desert and archeological fans!
St. George’s Monastery was founded in the fourth century by monks who were looking to immerse themselves in the lifestyle and desert stories of John the Baptist and Jesus. The monks, and perhaps most notably the hermit, John of Thebes, eventually settled on the spot around a cave where it is believed the prophet Elijah was fed by ravens.
The monastery was destroyed by the Persians and then rebuilt by the Crusaders before falling derelict. It wasn’t until 1878 when a Greek monk, Kalinikos, came to live here that the monastery started to look like its former glorious and cliff-hugging self. Kalinikos finished his renovations in 1901.
Today, there are still a few Greek Orthodox monks who inhabit the monastery.
Apart from the amazing Biblical-like scenery surrounding the monastery and the Wadi Kelt valley, other highlights include: the upper part of the monastery hosts the cave that Elijah the Prophet sought shelter in; while in the lower part of the monastery, a tomb of a Romanian monk that lived there in the 1960s still holds his well-preserved body.
Who was St George?
St. George’s Monastery is named after the most famous monk who lived there–Gorgias of Coziba.
How to get to St George’s Monastery
St George’s Monastery can be reached via the main Jerusalem–Dead Sea highway (Road 1). Take a left at Mitzpeh Jericho (or a right if you’re coming from Jericho) and follow the brown signs for Wadi Kelt. You can hike the Wadi all the way to the monastery but it will take a few hours, so take plenty of water–you’re in the desert after all!
Otherwise, you can reach the entrance gate, but you’ll still have to walk for around 15 minutes down a windy path. Not so easy for seniors or people with disabilities, but there are usually plenty of locals offering their donkeys for the ride (at a cost of course).
The monastery is free to enter but does close in the evening and overnight.
Here’s some beautiful aerial video footage to give you a taste of the area around St. George’s Monastery…