Visiting the Monastery of St. Sava in the Judaean Desert

As I think is the case for most people that love traveling, I love finding and learning about lesser-known travel destinations.  The world is such a big place full of amazing locations that can be so much more rewarding to visit than enduring the crowds at St. Peters or Versailles.  That’s why I knew I needed to learn more about the Monastery of St. Sawa (called Mar Saba in Arabic) when I saw the below image from Christina Luzuk.  Christina also shared some amazing experiences and her story with me, a small portion of which I will share at the end of this article.

the monastery of st. sava

The Monastery of St. Sava, or Mar Saba, is an Eastern Orthodox Christian monastery within the Bethlehem Governorate of the West Bank.  It lies halfway between the Old City of Jerusalem and the Dead Sea at the Kidron Valley. Christina’s image below shows the path Christina took to reach the Monastery.

After pointing our there is no electricity, cellular reception or access to the digital world at the Monastery, Christina gives more insight:

“The main buildings of the monastery are surrounded by a majestic stone wall. The charter is not made according to Israeli time, but by Byzantine, which is determined by the sun. Some pilgrims from Greece and Russia whom I’ve met there live there for several weeks, as long as the visa allows. They told me a lot about the area – the pilgrims who visit the monastery are mostly women – but … they are forbidden to enter the monastery grounds. But men are allowed not only to examine the Lavra, but, if desired, stay there for some time to participate in the full monastic cycle of worship.
But that was ok for me – I loved to sit by the tower of Justinian, admiring the beauty of the desert landscape and listening to the sound of the wind and this unbelievable precious silence .
The lavish Lavra was founded by St. Savva who came here from Cappadocia in search of solitude. He dug a cave and took up a monastic feat nothing like ever seen before. However, followers from the whole Middle East flocked to him, so in 484, the Lavra was founded – a monastery in which the monks lived in a stretch for many kilometers around the desert and gathered only once a week for joint worship.
This monastery doesnt get as many visitors but if you decide to go there – take some Gallons of water for the monks – they will really appreciate that.
If you want to spend more than an hour there, you should go by car – with someone who knows the desert well – it’s not that easy to find. But totally worth the way …
You will find so many places in Jerusalem which can change your life!! I came here as a broken girl – and left with a heart full of love …”
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Tradition has it the Monastery of St. Sava was founded by Sabbas the Sanctified in 483.  It is currently the home for twenty monks, who, as mentioned above, live with no electricity or real access to the outside world.  The Monastery is considered one of the inhabited monasteries in the world.  It also holds the relics of St. Sabbas.

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more tips for visiting the monastery

As mentioned by Christina, the Monastery of St. Sava is very traditional so be prepared for strict regulations.  For one, women are not permitted in the main compound.  In fact, the only building women are allowed to enter is the women’s gate near the main entrance.  Although, this restriction did not appear to dampen the trip much for Christina.

The Monastery is closed on Wednesdays and Fridays for fasting

Christina Luzuk

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Christina tags herself as a Russian girl living in Germany.  You can find more of her work and experiences on Instagram.  Christina shared a very special story with me about her experience in the Holy Land.  Years before her trip, Christina was in a bad car accident and lost a loved one.  The experience haunted her and put her in a downward spiral that affected every part of her life.  She credits her time in the desert as pulling her out of this and putting her life back on track.  Her time in the desert taught her how to live in the now and how to find happiness without materials things.  She learned how to enjoy the silence, overcoming dark thoughts and bad memories.  Not everyone can abandon the world and live this amazing experience, but for those who need it, Christina’s story is an inspiration.

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