In 1956, Professor George Forsyth, of the University of Michigan, invited Kurt Weitzmann, of Princeton University, to join him on an exploratory trip to Sinai. From 1958 to 1965, the University of Michigan, Princeton University, and the University of Alexandria carried out four research expeditions to the remote Monastery of Saint Catherine at Mount Sinai—the oldest continuously inhabited Orthodox Christian monastery in the world, with a history that can be traced back over seventeen centuries. The documentation collected by the Michigan-Princeton-Alexandria Expeditions to Mountain Sinai, under the direction of Professor George Forsyth (below, right) and Professor Kurt Weitzmann (pictured below left), is a profoundly important resource for Byzantine studies.

WeitzmannThe Visual Resources Collection at Princeton University holds a key archive for the study of Byzantine icons, namely, the color photographs of the collection of icons owned by the Monastery of Saint Catherine at Mount Sinai taken during these expeditions. This rich body of material stretches from Late Antiquity until the modern era and encompasses the history of the icon.  The collection is unique in that it documents, in color, the condition of these icons after the cleaning and restoration carried out in the 1950s and 1960s. Photography of the expedition was under the direction of Fred Anderegg, head of photographic services at the University of Michigan. The VRC has digitized and catalogued the collection of several thousand color images (5 × 7 inch color Ektachrome transparencies and 35mm slides) of icons in the Monastery of Saint Catherine made by the joint expeditions. This project was funded by a David A. Gardner ’69 Magic Grant from the Princeton University Council on the Humanities. 

This website displays all the color transparencies and color slides in the possesion of the Department of Art and Archaeology at Princeton. The online images are limited to a size of 1024 pixels. These images are available to download and use for teaching and scholarly purposes.Forsyth

The inputting and correcting of data for these images is ongoing. Additionally, as images and data are added, the website content will be expanded. We welcome any constructive scholarly contributions to the data and invite you to submit comments through our ‘Contact Us‘ page.

Images of Weitzmann and Forsyth courtesy of the Michigan-Princeton-Alexandria Expeditions to Mount Sinai.

Visit The Icons of Sinai, curated by Princeton University’s Department of Art & Archaeology,  for the full online collection and documentation.
Paradoxically, the Muslim occupation of Mount Sinai during the iconoclastic period of Orthodox history ensured that St. Catherine’s Monastery possesses the world’s largest collection of pre-iconoclasm icons. Readers of Orthodoxy in Dialogue may be especially interested to learn that the 6th- or 7th-century icon of SS. Sergius and Bacchus which graces the cover of John Boswell’s Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe was preserved at St. Catherine’s until taken in the 19th century to Ukraine, where it is displayed to this day. See our SS. Sergius & Bacchus and Their Icon in Gay Christian Apologetics for additional information.
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