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St. Saba's monastery in the Judean desert
  Between the fifth and the seventh centuries, the Judean Desert showed a remarkable concentration of monastic foundations, with no less than seventy monasteries scattered in its plains and rocky slopes. Judean monasticism reached its peak under the leadership of and St Sabas,directed the cenobitic monasteries (monasteries in which monks lived and worked together) in the Jerusalem region; he had come from Caesarea of Cappadocia (Asia Minor), and had established a large coenobium (476), renowned for its hospitality and social awareness. Sabas was in charge of the Palestinian lavras, that is loose communities of monks living separately, but sharing prayers and meals on weekends) and anchorites. He was a hermit, and had lived many years secluded in the desert. His monastery (established in 483) develloped around an isolated cave, and attracted monks from Armenia, Isauria, and other remote places. Initially, it consisted of dispersed cells, but it expanded quickly with the building of churches and dependencies untill it came to be known as the Great lavra (today Mar Saba). Sabas and his disciples founded ten other monasteries, eight in the Judean Desert.
  The Great lavra was the spiritual centre for the patriarchate of Jerusalem and for Palestinian monasticism in general. As a supporter of Orthodoxy, Sabas travelled to Constantinople in order to persuade emperor Anastasios (491-518) to abandon his support of Monophysitism. His attempt remained fruitless, but he was visited at Constantinople by Anicia Juliana (511/512), whose eunuchs entered Sabas' monastery after her death. Justinian initiated numerous building projects in the monasteries of the Judean Desert, possibly under the influence of Sabas who was again in Constantinople in 531. The present Mar Saba monastery is a remnant of the large and densely populated Early Byzantine establishement. It comprises two churches, the tomb of St Sabas, a refectory and kitchen, a bakery, a hostel, and several storerooms, cisterns, and cells. Associated to the monastery, and scattered in the surrounding wilderness, were no less than forty five dwellings of hermits (hermitages), many of which formed spacious compounds, consisting of cells, water reservoirs and chapels. Each compound was inhabited by a lone monk, or by an old hermit and his disciple or servant, or monks with the same ethnic or religious background.