Richard Nowitz

ON THE COVER: The craggy Judean mountains and the brook of Kidron provide the spectacular setting for the Great Laura, perhaps the largest monastery of its type in the Judean desert. Called today after its founder, St. Sabas, Mar Saba originally consisted of monks’ cells on either side of the valley, with a core complex containing two churches facing a central courtyard, a hospital, a bakery, a reservoir and a hospice for pilgrims. Following the Moslem conquest of the region in 638, the monks moved from their widely scattered cells into the central building complex; the monastery was enclosed by a protective wall, giving it its fortress-like appearance. Yizhar Hirschfeld profiles Mar Saba and other Judean wilderness monasteries in “Spirituality in the Desert.”