12 April 2011


Last week I was at St Catherine's Monastery in the Sinai Desert. A beautiful and sacred place, built around the area where Moses is believed to have seen the Burning Bush. The present compound was built in the 6th century AD, and is probably the oldest working monastery in the world with a library of manuscripts only second in the world to the Vatican.  
Over the ages, buildings had been added and changed. Almost all built in the local stone of the sharp tooth-like Sinai mountains: a pinkish-grey granite, with cement in the same tone. 

There is obviously a technique to laying stone walls. You need bigger bonding stones and smaller ones to stabilise the walls. See How to build a stone wall in your garden for more details. 
Stone walls are great as a continuum from an inside to an outside space. They can also be used as organic architecture or to emphasise the main structure of a building. Frank Lloyd Wright, architect and interior designer, used this to great effect in Fallingwater

Most of us will see stones used in more contemporary settings of slate and concrete. There are lots of companies in the UK and Belgium offering natural stone as wall cladding.

As the Monastery closed for visitors, with the high pitched orthodox bells chiming noon, nuns seemed to ready themselves to start the afternoon's work.

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