Saint George’s Monastery in the Wadi Qelt valley

Le Monastère Saint-Georges, Wadi Qelt, Cisjordanie

In the West Bank, a 4th-century monastery lies hidden in a remote valley

Wadi Qelt is a rocky canyon in the Judean Desert of the West Bank, which begins near Jerusalem and ends near Jericho, not far from the Dead Sea. In this isolated, arid valley, a 4th-century monastery clings precariously to the rock faces. Originally built around a cave, the monastery was enlarged in the 5th century when a Greek Orthodox monk, Gorgias of Koziba, took up residence.

Le Monastère Saint-Georges, Wadi Qelt, Cisjordanie

The Saint-Georges monastery was founded in the 4th century, when hermits sought the same experiences as prophets: according to legend, the prophet Elijah already rested in one of these caves on his way to Sinai. The Greek Orthodox monastery was built in the late 5th century AD by John of Thebes, who became a hermit and moved from Egypt to Syria-Palestine (the name of the ancient province of Judea) in 480 AD. The monastery was named Saint-Georges after the most famous monk who lived on the site, Gorgias de Koziba (it is sometimes referred to as the « Monastery of Saint-Georges de Choziba »).

Le Monastère Saint-Georges, Wadi Qelt, Cisjordanie

The monastery was destroyed in 614 AD by the Persians, who swept through the valley and massacred the fourteen monks who lived there. The bones and skulls of the martyred monks can still be seen today in the monastery chapel. After the Persian invasion, the monastery remained abandoned for almost 500 years, until it was restored by crusaders in the 12th century. After their expulsion, however, the monastery fell back into disuse. In 1878, a Greek monk, Kalinikos, settled here and restored the monastery, completing it in 1901.

Le Monastère Saint-Georges, Wadi Qelt, Cisjordanie

St. George is one of the many monasteries of Byzantine origin scattered across these rocky hills, where no women are allowed. Indeed, there are many monasteries in the desert of Judah.

Le Monastère Saint-Georges, Wadi Qelt, Cisjordanie Le Monastère Saint-Georges, Wadi Qelt, Cisjordanie Le Monastère Saint-Georges, Wadi Qelt, Cisjordanie Le Monastère Saint-Georges, Wadi Qelt, Cisjordanie Le Monastère Saint-Georges, Wadi Qelt, Cisjordanie Le Monastère Saint-Georges, Wadi Qelt, Cisjordanie

How to get to the Monastère Saint-Georges?

The monastery is located some 30 km from Jerusalem on the historic road between Jerusalem and Jericho, which runs parallel to the valley. A pedestrian bridge spans the Wadi Qelt (which flows in spring) and links the monastery to the road.

First, go to Mitzpe Jericho, almost halfway from Jerusalem, then head for the Wadi Qelt gorge. Turn right after 1 km. Go downhill on a small road for about 5 km, skirting the Wadi with the valley on your left (200 m ascent). Then turn left towards the monastery, where Bedouins offer donkey rides. You can also get there on foot. Remember to take plenty of water, and don’t forget that, depending on the time of year, it gets dark very early (especially at the end of the year).

Photo and text sources: Wikipedia, Amusing Planet