sits on the peak of Byrsa Hill
, near the ruins of the ancient Punic
and then Romancity
. It was built atop the ruins of an old temple dedicated to Eshmun
, the Punic god of healing. The edifice can still be accessed from the basement.
Hussein II Bey
authorised the French consul-general to build a cathedral on the site of ancient Carthage, to determine where it would be situated and to take all the land necessary for the project. His words were:
Praise to the one God, to whom all things return!
We cede in perpetuity to His Majesty the King of France
a location in the Malka, sufficient to raise a religious monument in honour of King Louis IX
at the place where this prince died.
We commit ourselves to respect and to make respected this monument consecrated by the King of France to the memory of one of his most illustrious ancestors. Greetings from the servant of God, Hussein Pasha Bey. May the Most High be propitious! Amen.
The 17th of Safar
of the year 1246. Done at Bardo
the 8th of August 1830. For the consul-general Mathieu de Lesseps.
The consul charged his son Jules with this duty. The latter, having closely examined possible sites, concluded that the chapel ought to be built on Byrsa Hill, in the centre of the Punic acropolis, where the temple of Aesculapius
was once located. King Louis-Philippe
approved the project. The architect chosen conceived a building of modest proportions that contained a mix of Gothic
architectural styles. In any case, he succeeded in giving it the look of a rich marabout
while recalling the royal chapel
. A cross, the only one standing at that time in Tunisia, topped the building.
Descendants of crusaders' families, companions of the sovereign, helped finance the construction.
St. Louis Cathedral in 1899
Built between 1884 and 1890, under the French protectorate
, the cathedral acquired primacy
for all of Africa
when the title of primate of Africa was restored for the benefit of Cardinal Lavigerie
, titular of the Archdioceses of Algiers
and of Carthage
, united in his person. The building was consecrated with great pomp in the presence of numerous ecclesiastical dignitaries.
After his death, Cardinal Lavigerie was buried there and a funerary monument was erected in his memory. However, his body now lies in the General Curia of the White Fathers
, in Rome
Late 19th century French architecture tended to feature composite styles (as in the case of the Basilica of the Sacré Cœur
, built in the Romanesque
-Byzantine architectural tradition in the same era). The building, constructed according to the plans of the abbot Pougnet, has a Byzantine-Moorish
style, and is in the shape of a Latin cross
of 65 meters by 30.
The façade is framed by two square towers, the crossing
lies beneath a large cupola
surrounded by eight short towers or spires, and there is a smaller cupola above the apse
. The church contains a nave
and two aisles
separated by arches
passing above. Its ceiling is adorned with beams that have sculpted, painted and gilt arabesques
on them. The stained glass
also features arabesques. The great bell weighs six tons and there is a four-bell carillon
- ^ Daniel E. Coslett, “(Re)creating a Christian Image Abroad: The Catholic Cathedrals of Protectorate-era Tunis,” in "Sacred Precincts: The Religious Architecture of Non-Muslim Communities across the Islamic World", ed. M. Gharipour (Boston, MA: Brill, 2015), 353–75.
- ^ In 1270, the Eighth Crusade arrived before Tunis. Hoping to convert the Sultan of Tunis to Christianity and use him to fight against the Sultan of Egypt, the crusaders easily took Carthage but the army was struck by an epidemic of dysentery. Louis IX (Saint Louis) died on 25 August. Part of his remains were buried in Tunisia; the tomb containing them can be visited today.
- ^ Mgr Alexandre Pons, La nouvelle Église d'Afrique ou le catholicisme en Algérie, en Tunisie et au Maroc depuis 1830. ed. Librairie Louis Namura, Tunis, 1930
- ^ For this occasion, some relics of Saint Louis kept in Sicily were brought by the Archbishop of Palermo for, before Saint Louis' body could be brought back to France, problems conserving it made it necessary for his innards to be left in Sicily. When Tunisia became independent, these relics were taken to France and deposited in Sainte-Chapelle.
- ^ Coslett, "(Re)creating a Christian Image Abroad".
Last edited on 19 March 2021, at 18:35
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