Christian Churches & WW Cemeteries In Libya
The Church of Cyrene
is not only that the beginning of the Church in Libya goes back to the origin
of Christianity herself, but also the Christian thought itself was nurtured in
North Africa; where the Bible says Moses was born and grew up, and where the
Libyan Simon of Cyrene helped Jesus Christ carry the cross [Mark 15: 21-24].
When Christianity was fighting for its life in North Africa and the Middle East,
Rome and Greece were yet to hear of Jesus Christ.
When the early Christian movement
was persecuted and plighted with heresy, Gnosticism and controversy in Egypt
(and later in Jerusalem), the Libyans and the Cyprians were among the first of
men to carry the news of new-born Jesus to the Greeks and to the surrounding
Mediterranean islands; where Christianity was nurtured to grow into a
major religion; which then the Romans took, protected, and further spread around
the ancient world --
a journey that took nearly 400 years to complete.
Among the first to leave Libya for Egypt and start a number
of Christian communities was St. Mark (1st century AD), who was a Libyan Berber
from Cyrene. Saint Mark is known for being the author of the
first Christian Bible – the author of the
"Gospel of Mark".
Having written the Gospel, St. Mark left Libya for Egypt where
he founded the
Church of Alexandria and began spreading the new religion – the religion which
Berber Arius Ammonius (AD 250/256–336 AD) deplored
for being freely mixed with pagan philosophy. Arius Ammonius was the Berber
leader of the movement of reform and modernization in Christianity in North
Africa, who emphasized the Father's
divinity over the Son.
Also of historical importance is the fact that among the first to document
the Christian philosophy and produce tumultuous volumes of Christian lore was
the Berber St. Augustine of Algeria; whom together with Saint Mark are widely
regarded among the most prominent figures of early
"Gabriel Camps noted that ". . . Three giants
dominate the Christian thought of Roman Africa: Tertullian, Cyprian and Augustine.
These three Africans who . . . contributed to the establishment of the Christian
dogma, are regarded, with due merit, as "Fathers of the Church "(Camps,
p.251). It was Tertullian (155-225) who made Christianity a tool in his resistance
against the Roman occupation because . . . he had kept "all the passions,
all the entransigence, all the indiscipline of a Berber." . . . His principal
work was the Apologetic (Apologeticum). As for Cyprian, he conducted research
and underwent martyrdom . . . As for Saint-Augustine (345-430), it does
not seem necessary to give the details of his life and his work because, in theory,
Europeans, as Christians, know it better than anyone else." Mohamed
Chafik. [See The Tripolitanian Church, below, for more on St.Augustine.]
The humble Church of Cyrene has seen a number
of bishops including the first Christian bishop Lucius of Cyrene (appointed by
Mark), and the most famous bishop of Cyrene Sinesius of Tolemaidis (cf. Tolmeitha).
It was also widely recognised that the Egyptian Coptic Church had strong historical
roots in Libya. In fact both the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Greek Orthodox
Church of Alexandria are considered the successors of the Berber saint Mark's
Church of Alexandria.
The Ancient Metropolis of Libya included Livis, Marmarica,
Drnis and Tripolitania; while the Great and Ancient Metropolis of Pentapolis
comprised the five cities of Cyrenaica in Eastern Libya, namely: Cyrene, Apollonia,
Tolmeitha (Ptolemais), Berenice and Arsinoe (Taucheira or Tokra). Among
the ancient churches of Cyrene are the Byzantine Church in Qasr Libya (the seat
of a Bishopric during the Byzantine period); Ras Al-Hilal Church; Athrun Church;
Apollonia Churches; Tolmeitha Church; the Cyrene Cathedral; and Benghazi Catholic
The best resource for churches in Cyrenaica is the "Christian
Monuments of Cyrenaica", 2003, by J. B. Ward-Perkins and R. G.
Goodchild, Edited by J. M. Reynolds. The 500-page volume includes archaeological
studies undertaken between 1953 and 1971 by the late J. B. Ward-Perkins (d. 1981)
and the late R. G. Goodchild (d. 1968), covering at least 35 churches, photographs,
illustrations, maps, and a draft overview of the building techniques used; thereby
representing detailed evidence for the study of late antique and early Byzantine
Cyrenaica of a quality and extent that has never been available before [2003,
375 illus., 2 maps, index, ISBN 9781900971010].
Benghazi Catholic Cathedral
Benghazi Catholic Cathedral, with its two large distinct domes, was built between 1929 and 1939.
The largest colonial building still stands in Benghazi city
centre today is the former Catholic Cathedral in Cathedral Square. It was also
one of the largest churches in North Africa. The basilica-based, neo-classical
style of the church was designed by the Italian architects Guido Ottavo and Cabiati
Ferrazza, with the large domes covering both spans of the nave. Apparently, the
original drawings of the plan show a three-floor bell tower that was never
Benghazi Catholic Cathedral, which currently (2009 - 2010) is undergoing renovation work by an Italian company.
Christianity hardly exists in modern Libya today, apart from
a small minority of foreign communities, mostly from Egypt, Europe
and some African countries. The largest group of Christians is the Coptic
Orthodox, said to number around 60,000 Christians (with other minorities from
the Russian Orthodox, Serbian Orthodox, and the Greek Orthodox churches).
The second largest Christian
group in Libya is the Roman Catholics - around 40,000 Christians; followed by
a small Anglican congregation in Tripoli, mostly of African immigrants. However
there are several churches in Libya today including St. Francis and St. Mark's
in Tripoli; St. Antonios and Catholic Cathedral in Benghazi; and St. Mary and
St. George in Misratha.
Benghazi War Graves Cemetery
Graves From Benghazi War Cemetery.
The War Graves Cemetery was built and maintained by the British
Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Sometimes the locals refer to this cemetery
as the Australian Cemetery (Al-Maqbarah Al-Ustraliyah). The cemetery,
located about 6km south-east of the city centre, is the home of Allied soldiers
who died in the Second World War, from Libya, Sudan, South Africa, United
Kingdom, Australia, Greece, India, and Norway. There are 1214 Commonwealth servicemen
commemorated in this cemetery, including 163 unidentified servicemen.
Nearly a week after the first anniversary of the 17th of February
a group of unknown vandals stormed the War Graves Cemetery on Friday the 23rd
of February 2012 and desecrated a number of graves
and headstones. The national Transitional Council had condemned the attack
on the cemetery. The attack was said to have been related to the violence
in Afghanistan. For more details and photos of the desecrated
cemetery, see: www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2106230/
The Church of Tripolitania
While the Church of Cyrene was allied to the Coptic Church
of Egypt, the Church of Tripolitania was bound to the Church of Carthage -
the second largest Christian centre after Alexandria at the
time. During the reign of the Berber Libyan Septimius Severus, Africa's first
Roman Emperor, who built spectacular Leptis Magna, the Libyan Victor (189-199),
also from Leptis Magna, became Africa's first Pope.
Among the achievements of
Pope Victor was the introduction of the Latin language into the celebrations
of the Mass in Rome, which was previously celebrated in Greek (the language of
Greece) - or the language of the earlier Church before the seat of power was
slowly transferred to Rome. He has also decreed that Easter should be celebrated
on a Sunday.
And in addition to more than one hundred African bishops,
history remembers most the bishop of Hippo St. Augustine, one of the most devoted
Christian scholars the world has ever seen. He was born in what is now known
as Algeria on the 13th of November 354, and died in Hippo on the 28th of August
430. He was largely known for his Latin scholarship and for his massive contribution
to Christian thought, and as such he was among the first ever Christian philosophers.
His vision is detailed in his book: The City of God.
The Byzantine Basilica of The Time of Justinian
The Christian Byzantine Basilica of the time of Justinian,
some parts of which are currently in display in Sabratha Museum, Libya, was built
in the 6th century AD. But some of the material used, like the square-sided columns
and the acanthus motifs, date from an earlier period, indicating that
they were taken from earlier, pre-Christian, structures. The main aisles of the
church were lavishly decorated with mosaics, which are currently in display in
the museum. The church contains an impressive collection of wall and floor mosaic
panels, rich in vibrant colours and geometrical designs, animals, birds and characters,
as well as columns, column bases, and display cases of clay oil lamps.
This gallery of the museum is known as "The Church".
Mosaic from the Basilica of Justinian. These and other wall mosaics in display originally come from the basilica's two aisles.
designs from the Basilica of Justinian. This rich scene, which includes the peacock
(near the top), originally comes from the central nave of the church.
Tripoli Christian Cemetery
First World War (WWI) Cemetery
First World War Cemetery & Catholic Church
This is a huge cemetery, the Christian Cemetery, locally known as "Hmanjay".
The cemetery is run by the Italian Embassy in Tripoli, Libya. It is located in
Souq Athulata (Atlat) in Tripoli. The complex includes a Catholic church, with
Sunday and Christmas services, a First World War cemetery, housing a number of
graves from various nationalities, with a Greek section (see below).
An altar from the Catholic Church in Tripoli.
The Greek Orthodox Church Cemetery In Tripoli
The Greek Orthodox Section of the Cemetery.
A memorial stone inscribed in the Greek language.
St. Francis Church In Tripoli
St Francis Church, Tripoli.
The Jewish Synagogue
The Jewish Synagogue, Old Town, Tripoli.
Motif designs from the Jewish Synagogue, Old City, Tripoli.
One of the oldest synagogues found in Libya is located in
Nafusa Mountain, in the Berber village of Yefren. The
locals call it ma’abed al-yahoud (the Temple of the
Jews) or kanisat al-yahoud (the Church of the Jews).
The current building, clearly designed in relation to the Star of David, with
its six arches and six windows, is built on an ancient synagogue said to be at
least 2000 years old. Located east of the city centre the synagogue was used
by a small community until 1948.
Christian Monuments of Cyrenaica: J. B. Ward-Perkins and R. G. Goodchild Edited by J. M. Reynolds. 2003. 500 pp., 375 illus., 2 maps, index ISBN 9781900971010
Greek Orthodox Church:
Tel 021.4448045 (Tripoli)
Tel 061 2233188 (Benghazi)
Coptic Orthodox Church:
Tel 021.4804542 (Tripoli)
Tel 061 9097046 / 9096588 (Benghazi)
Tel 021 4442037 / 0923096822 (Tripoli)
Tel 021 4770531 (Tripoli)
Immaculate Conception Catholic Church
Ibn Al-Khattab Street
P.O. Box 248