The monastery dates back to 527 AD, when the Byzantine Emperor Justinian ordered the construction of the protective walls and many of the builidings seen today; long before the "modern" monastery existed, however, the site was already a major installation of Christian faith. The first recorded pilgrimage was made by a Greek monk named Silvanos, who is believed to have arrived here in 378 AD. One year later, so many of his countryman had anchored themselves at the foot of Mount Sinai that the Empress Saint Helena built a tower for the growing population of monks, who believed they had found the site of the Burning Bush. The tower was meant defend the monks from the occassional mauradings of local tribes, and it was the towards this same end that Justinian later ordered an architect named Etienne Ailisios to fortify and expand the monastery. That many of AilisiosŐs structures still exist today testifies to his great skill, but Justinian became enraged at the architect when he learned that the monastery was being constructed beneath the Holy Mountain rather that on top of it. Ailisios was consequently executed.

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