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The Great Lavra of St. Sabas, known in Arabic as Mar Saba (Template:He), is a Greek Orthodox monastery overlooking the Kidron Valley in the West Bank east of Bethlehem. It was founded by Saint Sabas of Cappadocia in the year 439 and today houses around 20 monks. It is considered to be one of the oldest inhabited monasteries in the world, and still maintains many of its ancient traditions. One in particular is the restriction on women entering the main compound. The only building that women can enter is the Women's Tower, near the main entrance.
Mar Saba was also the home of St. John of Damascus (b.676 - d.749-754?) St John The Damascene was a key religious figure in the Iconoclastic Controversy, who in ca. 726 wrote letters to the Byzantine emperor Leo III the Isaurian refuting his edicts prohibiting the veneration of images or statues of Christ or other Christian icons. John who was born in Damascus and worked as a high financial officer to the Muslim Caliph Abd al-Malik, eventually felt a higher calling and migrated to Palestine, where he was tonsured a monk and was ordained a hieromonk (monastic priest) at the Monastery of Mar Saba. St. John's tomb lies in a cave under the monastery.
The monastery is important in the historical development of the liturgy of the Orthodox Church in that the monastic Typicon (manner of celebrating worship services) of Saint Sabas became the standard throughout the Eastern Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite. The Typicon took the standard form of services which were celebrated in the Patriarchate of Jerusalem and added some specifically monastic usages which were local traditions at Saint Sabas. From there it spead to Constantinople, and thence throughout the Byzantine world. Although this Typicon has undergone further evolution, particularly at the Monastery of the Stoudion in Constantinople, it is still referred to as the Typicon of Saint Sabas.
- Founder's Typikon of the Sabas Monastery near Jerusalem from Byzantine Monastic Foundation Documents