The Archdiocese of Carthage, also known as the Church of Carthage, was a Latin Catholic diocese established in the Carthage, Roman Empire, in the 2nd century. Agrippin was the first named bishop, around 230 A.D. The importance of the city of Carthage had previously been restored by Julius Caesar and Augustus. When Christianity became firmly established around the Roman province of Africa Proconsulare, Carthage became its natural ecclesiastical seat. Carthage subsequently exercised informal primacy as an archdiocese, even at one point to being attributed to honorary title of patriarch, being the most important center of Christianity in the whole of Roman Africa, corresponding to most of today's Mediterranean coast and inland of Northern Africa.
The Church of Carthage thus was to the Early African church what the Church of Rome was to the Catholic Church in Italy. The archdiocese used the African Rite, a variant of the Western liturgical rites in Latin language, possibly a local use of the primitive Roman Rite. Famous figures include Saint Perpetua, Saint Felicitas, and their Companions (dead c. 203), Tertullian (c. 155–240), Cyprian (c. 200–258), Caecilianus (florit 311), Saint Aurelius (dead 429), and Eugenius of Carthage (dead 505). Tertullian and Cyprian are both considered Latin Church Fathers of the Latin Church. Tertullian, a theologian of part Berber descent, was instrumental in the development of trinitarian theology, and was the first to apply Latin language extensively in his theological writings. As such, Tertullian has been called "the father of Latin Christianity" and "the founder of Western theology." Carthage remained an important center of Christianity, hosting several councils of Carthage.
The city of Carthage fell to the Muslim conquest of the Maghreb with the Battle of Carthage (698). The episcopal see remained but Christianity declined under persecution. The last resident bishop, Cyriaque of Carthage, was documented in 1076.
In 1518, the Archdiocese of Carthage was revived as a Catholic titular see. It was briefly restored as a residential episcopal see 1884-1964, after which it was supplanted by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Tunis. The last titular archbishop, Agostino Casaroli, remained in office until 1979. Subsequent to this, the titular see has remained vacant.
Archdiocese of Carthage
Early Christian quarter in ancient Carthage
French protectorate of Tunisia
|Ecclesiastical province||Early African church|
|Sui iuris church||Latin Church|
|Dissolved||In partibus infidelium in 1519|
|Titular archbishop||Vacant since 1979|
In Christian traditions, some accounts give as the first bishop of Carthage Crescens, ordained by Saint Peter, or Speratus, one of the Scillitan Martyrs. Epenetus of Carthage is found in Pseudo-Dorotheus and Pseudo-Hippolytus lists of seventy disciples. The account of the martyrdom of Saint Perpetua and her companions in 203 mentions an Optatus who is generally taken to have been bishop of Carthage, but who may instead have been bishop of Thuburbo Minus. The first certain historically documented bishop of Carthage is Agrippinus around the 230s. Also historically certain is Donatus, the immediate predecessor of Cyprian (249–258).
In the 3rd century, at the time of Cyprian, the bishops of Carthage exercised a real though not formalized primacy in the Early African Church. not only in the Roman province of Proconsular Africa in the broadest sense (even when it was divided into three provinces through the establishment of Byzacena and Tripolitania), but also, in some supra-metropolitan form, over the Church in Numidia and Mauretania. The provincial primacy was associated with the senior bishop in the province rather than with a particular see and was of little importance in comparison to the authority of the bishop of Carthage, who could be appealed to directly by the clergy of any province.
A division in the church that came to be known as the Donatist controversy began in 313 among Christians in North Africa. The Donatists stressed the holiness of the church and refused to accept the authority to administer the sacraments of those who had surrendered the scriptures when they were forbidden under the Emperor Diocletian. The Donatists also opposed the involvement of Emperor Constantine in church affairs in contrast to the majority of Christians who welcomed official imperial recognition.
The occasionally violent controversy has been characterized as a struggle between opponents and supporters of the Roman system. The most articulate North African critic of the Donatist position, which came to be called a heresy, was Augustine, bishop of Hippo Regius. Augustine maintained that the unworthiness of a minister did not affect the validity of the sacraments because their true minister was Christ. In his sermons and books Augustine, who is considered a leading exponent of Christian dogma, evolved a theory of the right of Orthodox Christian rulers to use force against schismatics and heretics. Although the dispute was resolved by a decision of an imperial commission in the Council of Carthage (411), Donatist communities continued to exist as late as the 6th century.
The immediate successors of Cyprian were Lucianus and Carpophorus, but there is disagreement about which of the two was earlier. A bishop Cyrus, mentioned in a lost work by Augustine, is placed by some before, by others after, the time of Cyprian. There is greater certainty about the 4th-century bishops: Mensurius, bishop by 303, succeeded in 311 by Caecilianus, who was at the First Council of Nicaea and who was opposed by the Donatist bishop Majorinus (311–315). Rufus participated in an anti-Arian council held in Rome in 337 or 340 under Pope Julius I. He was opposed by Donatus Magnus, the true founder of Donatism. Gratus (344– ) was at the Council of Sardica and presided over the Council of Carthage (349). He was opposed by Donatus Magnus and, after his exile and death, by Parmenianus, whom the Donatists chose as his successor. Restitutus accepted the Arian formula at the Council of Rimini in 359 but later repented. Genethlius presided over two councils at Carthage, the second of which was held in 390.
By the end of the 4th century, the settled areas had become Christianized, and some Berber tribes had converted en masse.
The next bishop was Saint Aurelius, who in 421 presided over another council at Carthage and was still alive in 426. His Donatist opponent was Primianus, who had succeeded Parmenianus in about 391. A dispute between Primian and Maximian, a relative of Donatus, resulted in the largest Maximian schism within the Donatist movement.
Capreolus was bishop of Carthage when the Vandals conquered the province. Unable for that reason to attend the Council of Ephesus in 431 as chief bishop of Africa, he sent his deacon Basula or Bessula to represent him. In about 437, he was succeeded by Quodvultdeus, whom Gaiseric exiled and who died in Naples. A 15-year vacancy followed, and it was only in 454 that Saint Deogratias was ordained bishop of Carthage. He died at the end of 457 or the beginning of 458, and Carthage remained without a bishop for another 24 years. Saint Eugenius was consecrated in around 481, exiled, along with other Catholic bishops, by Huneric in 484, recalled in 487, but in 491 forced to flee to Albi in Gaul, where he died. When the Vandal persecution ended in 523, Bonifacius became bishop of Carthage and held a Council in 525.
The Eastern Roman Empire established its praetorian prefecture of Africa after the reconquest of northwestern Africa during the Vandalic War 533–534. Bonifacius was succeeded by Reparatus, who held firm in the Three Chapters Controversy and in 551 was exiled to Pontus, where he died. He was replaced by Primosus, who accepted the emperor's wishes on the controversy. He was represented at the Second Council of Constantinople in 553 by the bishop of Tunis. Publianus was bishop of Carthage from before 566 to after 581. Dominicus is mentioned in letters of Pope Gregory the Great between 592 and 601. Fortunius lived at the time of Pope Theodore I (c. 640) and went to Constantinople in the time of Patriarch Paul II of Constantinople (641 to 653). Victor became bishop of Carthage in 646.
At the beginning of the 8th century and at the end of the 9th, Carthage still appears in lists of dioceses over which the Patriarch of Alexandria claimed jurisdiction.
Two letters of Pope Leo IX on 27 December 1053 show that the diocese of Carthage was still a residential see. The texts are given in the Patrologia Latina of Migne. They were written in reply to consultations regarding a conflict between the bishops of Carthage and Gummi about who was to be considered the metropolitan, with the right to convoke a synod. In each of the two letters, the pope laments that, while in the past Carthage had had a church council of 205 bishops, the number of bishops in the whole territory of Africa was now reduced to five, and that, even among those five, there was jealousy and contention. However, he congratulated the bishops to whom he wrote for submitting the question to the Bishop of Rome, whose consent was required for a definitive decision. The first of the two letters (Letter 83 of the collection) is addressed to Thomas, Bishop of Africa, whom Mesnages deduces to have been the bishop of Carthage.(p. 8) The other letter (Letter 84 of the collection) is addressed to Bishops Petrus and Ioannes, whose sees are not mentioned, and whom the pope congratulates for having supported the rights of the see of Carthage.
In each of the two letters, Pope Leo declares that, after the Bishop of Rome, the first archbishop and chief metropolitan of the whole of Africa is the bishop of Carthage, while the bishop of Gummi, whatever his dignity or power, will act, except for what concerns his own diocese, like the other African bishops, by consultation with the archbishop of Carthage. In the letter addressed to Petrus and Ioannes, Pope Leo adds to his declaration of the position of the bishop of Carthage the eloquent declaration: "... nor can he, for the benefit of any bishop in the whole of Africa lose the privilege received once for all from the holy Roman and apostolic see, but he will hold it until the end of the world as long as the name of our Lord Jesus Christ is invoked there, whether Carthage lie desolate or whether it some day rise glorious again". When in the 19th century the residential see of Carthage was for a while restored, Cardinal Charles-Martial-Allemand Lavigerie had these words inscribed in letters of gold beneath the dome of his great cathedral. The building now belongs the Tunisian state and is used for concerts.
Later, an archbishop of Carthage named Cyriacus was imprisoned by the Arab rulers because of an accusation by some Christians. Pope Gregory VII wrote him a letter of consolation, repeating the hopeful assurances of the primacy of the Church of Carthage, "whether the Church of Carthage should still lie desolate or rise again in glory". By 1076, Cyriacus was set free, but there was only one other bishop in the province. These are the last of whom there is mention in that period of the history of the see.
After the Muslim conquest of the Maghreb, the church gradually died out along with the local Latin dialect. The Islamization of Christian appears to have been quick and the Arab authors paid scant attention to them. Christan graves inscribed with Latin and dated to 10th-11th centuries are known. By the end of 10th century, the number of bishoprics in the Maghreb region was 47 including 10 in southern Tunsia. In 1053, Pope Leo IX commented that only five bishoprics were left in Africa.
Some primary accounts including Arabic ones in 10th century, mention persecutions of the Church and measures undertaken by Muslim rulers to suppress it. A schism among the African churches developed by the time of Pope Formosus. In 980, Christians of Carthage contacted Pope Benedict VII, asking to declare Jacob as an archbishop. Leo IX declared the bishop of Carthage as the "first archbishop and metropolitan of all Africa" when a bishop of Gummi in Byzacena declared the region a metropolis. By the time of Gregory VII, the Church was unable to appoint a bishop which traditionally would have only required presence of three other bishops. This was likely due to persecutions and maybe also other churches breaking off their communion with Carthage. In 1152, the Muslim rulers ordered Christians of Tunisa to convert or face death. The only African bishopric mentioned in a list in 1192 published by the Catholic Church in Rome was that of Carthage. Native Christianity is attested in 15th century though it was not in communion in with the Catholic church.
Today, Archdiocese of Carthage remain as a titular see of the Catholic Church, albeit vacant. The equivalent contemporary entity for the historical geography in continuous operation would be the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Tunis, established in 1884.
Culusi was a Roman town of the Roman province of Africa Proconsolare, located near Carthage. It is also known as Culcitana or Culsitana. The city is tentatively identified with ruins in the suburbs of Tunisia.Culusi was also the seat of an ancient Christian bishopric, through the Roman Empire and into late antiquity, a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Carthage. Today Culusi survives as a titular bishopric and the current Bishop is Asztrik Várszegi, of Pannonhalma.Eguga
Eguga was a civitas in Africa Proconsulare during the Roman Empire. It was located in present-day Tunisia. The city was also the seat of an ancient Roman Catholic diocese.Eguga was a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Carthage. The only bishop mentioned by the sources was Florencio, who took part in the antimonothelite Council of Carthage in 646. Today Eguga survives as a titular bishopric the current bishop being Gerard William Battersby, of Detroit.Gisipa
The Diocese of Gisipa (Latin: Rite Gisipensis) is a home suppressed and titular see of the Roman Catholic Church, suffragan of the Archdiocese of Carthage.Gunela
Gunela was an ancient Roman-Berber town and archaeological site in Bizerte Governorate, Tunisia. It was located at 37.165524n, 9.765536e, within the suburbs of Tinja, Tunisia.In antiquity, Gunela was a town in the province of Africa Proconsularis. Gunela has been tentatively located at the ruins of Henchir-Goungla across the river from Tindja. The town flourished from 30BC to AD640.During late antiquity, Gunela was the seat of an ancient Roman Catholic diocese, suffragan of the Archdiocese of Carthage. The only bishop recorded by history is Pascasio, who took part in the Council of Carthage (484) that was convened by the Vandal king Huneric, after which Pascasio was exiled. Today it survives as titular bishopric and the current archbishop is Christophe Pierre.Henchir-Baldia
Henchir-Baldia is an archaeological site and locality in southern Tunisia. The stone ruins are tentatively associated with Bladia, a civitas of the Roman province of Byzacena during the Roman Empire. It was a Catholic bishopric.
Bladia was the seat of the Diocese of Bladia (in Latin : Dioecesis Bladiensis) a home suppressed and titular see of the Roman Catholic Church. that is suffragn to the Archdiocese of Carthage.Lacubaza
Lacubaza was a civitas in the Roman province of Africa Proconsularis. The exact location of the town is unknown, though it is believed to have been situated in northern Tunisia.
Lacubaza was the seat of an ancient Christian bishopric, a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Carthage. The only documented bishop is Vindicianus, who took part in the council held at Carthage called in 349 by the Metropolitan bishop, Grato.
The Diocese of Lacubaza is now a titular bishopric of the Roman Catholic Church. Its current bishop is Hyacinth Oroko Egbebo, apostolic vicar of Bomadi.Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Tunis
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Tunis is a Roman Catholic diocese in Tunis, Tunisia. It was founded on 10 November 1884 under the name "Archdiocese of Carthage", with territory corresponding to that of the then French protectorate of Tunisia. On 9 July 1964, it became a territorial prelature under the ecclesiastical title of Prelature of Tunis. It was made a diocese, keeping the name of Tunis, on 31 May 1995, and raised to the rank of archdiocese on 22 May 2010.In July 1964, pressure from President Habib Bourguiba's government of the Republic of Tunisia, which was in a position to close down all the Catholic churches in the country, forced the Holy See to abide by a modus vivendi bilateral agreement which regulated its legal status according to the 1959 Constitution of Tunisia. The modus vivendi gave the Catholic Church in Tunisia legal personality and stated that it was legally represented by the prelate nullius of Tunis. The Holy See chose the prelate nullius but the government could object against the candidate before an appointment. The modus vivendi banned the Catholic Church from any political activity in Tunisia. This particular agreement was unofficially described as instead a modus non moriendi ("a way of not dying"). By it, all but five of the country's more than seventy churches were handed over to the state, including what had been the cathedral of the archdiocese, while the state, for its part, promised that the buildings would be put only to use of public interest consonant with their previous function.Pope Paul VI suppressed the Archdiocese of Carthage and erected the Prelature nullius of Tunis, in his 1964 apostolic constitution Prudens Ecclesiae, to conform to the bilateral agreement. The Archdiocese of Carthage reverted to the status of a titular see. The first archbishop of the titular see, Agostino Casaroli, was appointed on 4 July 1967. The Annuario Pontificio of that period described the titular archiepiscopal see of Carthage as "founded in the 3rd century, metropolitan see of Proconsularis or Zeugitana, restored as an archiepiscopal see on 10 November 1884, titular archbishopric 9 July 1964". The history of the territorial prelature was given as "founded 9 July 1964, previously an archbishopric under the name of Carthage founded 10 November 1884".The prelature was elevated to an exempt diocese, directly subject to the Holy See, in 1995. In 2010, it was promoted to an exempt archdiocese. The summary of the history of the residential archdiocese of Tunis now given in the Annuario Pontificio is: "archbishopric under the name of Carthage 10 November 1884; Prelature of Tunis 9 July 1964; diocese 31 May 1995; archbishopric 22 May 2010." The ancient see of Carthage, on the other hand, being no longer a residential bishopric, is listed by the Catholic Church as a titular see in the same publication as distinct from the modern see of Tunis. As a summary history of the titular see of Carthage it states: "founded in the 3rd century, metropolitan see of Proconsularis or Zeugitana, restored as an archiepiscopal see on 10 November 1884, titular metropolitan see 9 July 1964".The Cathedral of St. Vincent de Paul is the cathedral of the archdiocese of Tunis. What was the cathedral of the archdiocese of Carthage, the Saint Louis Cathedral, is owned by the Tunisian state and is used for concerts.Saia Maior
Saia Maior also known as Saia Maggiore was a Roman era civitas of the Roman province of Africa Proconsularis.
The ancient city is tentatively identified with ruins at Henchir-Simidia, Tunisia
The city was also the seat of an ancient bishopric, suffragan of the Archdiocese of Carthage. Only two documented bishops Saia Maggiore are known. The Catholic Donato intervened at the Council of Carthage (411), at that time the seat had no Donatist bishops.
Another bishop named Donato has lived at the time of Pope Leo I, and is mentioned in his letters. Today Saia Major survives as a titular bishopric and the current Bishop is Antonio Bonifacio Reimann Panic.Selamselae
Selamselae also known as Selemselitanus and Selamselae is a suppressed titular see of the Roman Catholic Church, It is under the jurisdiction of Archdiocese of Carthage and was active through the Vandal and Roman Empires. A Bishop Felix, is known from late antiquity, and the current bishop is Gustavo Rodolfo Mendoza Hernández of Guatemala. The original seat of the ancient diocese was an oppidum (native town) in the Roman province of Africa Proconsularis, called Selem, though nothing is known of the town not even its location.Simidicca
Simidicca, was a Roman era civitas of the Roman province of ' Africa Proconsolare.
The ancient city is tentatively identified with ruins at Henchir-Simidia Tunisia.The city was also the seat of an ancient Christian bishopric, suffragan of' Archdiocese of Carthage. Only one bishop of this diocese is known Adeodatus, a Catholic bishop who participated in the Conference of Carthage of 411, which saw gathered together the bishops Catholics and Donatists in Roman Africa; the headquarters at that time had no Donatist bishops. The same Adeodatus was present at the Council of Carthage (419) held by St Aurelius. Today the diocese survives as titular bishopric and the current bishop is Jean-Marc Aveline, of Marseille .Simingi
Simingi was a Roman era civitas (town) of the Roman province of Africa Proconsularis.
The town was the seat of an ancient bishopric, suffragan of the Archdiocese of Carthage. Only two bishops of this diocese are documented.
Catholic bishop Restitutus, who attended the Council of Carthage (411) at that time the seat had no Donatist bishops.
Cresconio witnessed the Council of Carthage (525).In modern times Simingi became a titular bishopric. Simingi's bishop is Galo Fernández Villaseca of Santiago, Chile.Siminina
Siminina, was a Roman era civitas of the Roman province of Africa Proconsularis.
The ancient city is tentatively identified with ruins at Bir-El-Djedidi, Tunisia.
The city was also the seat of an ancient Christian bishopric, suffragan of Archdiocese of Carthage. Only two bishops of Siminina are documented
Deuterium was present at the Council of Carthage (484) called by the Vandal king Huneric.
Giuniano intervened in the Council of Carthage (525).Today Siminina survives as a titular bishopric and the current bishop is Robert Patrick Maginnis of PhiladelphiaSinna
Sinna was a Roman era civitas of the Roman province of Africa Proconsularis.
This ancient city is tentatively identified with ruins at Calaat-Es-Senan in modern Tunisia.
The ancient town was also the seat of a Christian bishopric (in Latin Rite Sinnensis) suffragan of the Archdiocese of Carthage. The only bishop known of this diocese is Victor, who attended the Council of Constantinople in 553. Sinna survives today as a titular bishopric. Its current bishop is Arūnas Poniškaitis of Vilnius.Tagarata
Tagarata was a Roman era civitas of the Roman province of Africa Proconsularis. The ancient city has been tentatively identified with ruins at Bir-El-Djedidi, Tunisia.
The ancient city was also the seat of an ancient Christian bishopric, suffragan of the Archdiocese of Carthage. There are three documented bishops of this diocese. The Catholic Lucio and Donatist Quinto both attended the Council of Carthage (411). Honore attended the Council of Carthage (484) called by the Vandal king Huneric, after which Honored was exiled. Today, the see of Tagarata survives as titular bishopric and the bishop is Jan Bagiński of Opole, Poland.Thibiuca
Tibiuca was a Roman era civitas of the Roman province of Africa Proconsularis.
Tibiuca has been tentatively identified with ruins at Henchir-Gâssa, Tunisia.During antiquity, Tibiuca was the seat of an ancient bishopric, suffragan of the Archdiocese of Carthage. There are two bishops attributable to Roman era Tibiuca. The first is Felix of Thibiuca, who suffered at the time of Diocletian; his vita reports that he was deported to Italy and martyred in Venosa in Apulia. It is commemorated in the Roman martyrology on the date of October 24. Another bishop of Tibiuca was Pascasio, who took part in the Council of Carthage (411). The diocese at that time had no Donatist bishops. Today, Tibiuca survives as titular bishopric and the current Bishop is Eugenio Coter, of Pando.Thunusruma
Thunusruma (Tunudruma) was a Roman–Berber civitas (town) in the province of Africa Proconsularis. Its exact location is uncertain, but it must have been somewhere in northern Tunisia.
In antiquity, the town was also the seat of a Christian diocese, suffragan of the Archdiocese of Carthage.Only one bishop of this diocese is known, Ottaviano, who intervened at the Council of Carthage (525). Tunudruma is now a titular bishopric of the Roman Catholic Church and the current bishop is Josef Hrdlička of Olomouc.Utimmira
Utimmira, was an ancient Roman town of the Roman province of Africa Proconsularis near Carthage in today's Tunisia, the exact location of which has been lost to history.
Utimmira was the seat of is an ancient episcopal see, suffragan of Archdiocese of Carthage. Only two bishops attributed to this diocese: the Catholic Severo, who intervened at the Council of Carthage (411) and Bishop Reparato, who took part in the Council of Carthage (484) called by the Vandal king Huneric, after which Reparato was exiled to Corsica.
Today Utimmira survives as titular bishop, the current bishop is Andrés Vargas Peña, of Mexico City.Zarna (Africa)
Zarna was a Roman town of the Roman Empire during late antiquity. An exact location for the town has been lost to history, although that it was in the Roman province of Africa Proconsolare means it must have been in northern Tunisia.
In antiquity the town was also the seat of a Christian bishopric, suffragan of the Archdiocese of Carthage. Only one bishop of this diocese is documented Vitale, who took part in the antimonotelita Council of Carthage of 646.
Today Zarna survives as a titular bishopric of the Roman Catholic Church and the current bishop is Francisco Antonio Ceballos Escobar of Puerto Carreño. who replaced Edmar Peron in 2016.Zerta
Zerta was an ancient Catholic titular episcopal see of the Roman province of Numidia in modern Algeria. It was a suffragan diocese of the Archdiocese of Carthage.
|Latin Church Fathers|
Traditional ecclesiastical jurisidictions in Christianity (and denominational claimants), sorted according to earliest legacy
Legend: in bold blue the patriarchs belonging to the Catholic Church, in light blue those belonging to the Eastern Catholic Church, and in green those belonging to Oriental Orthodoxy.
in late Antiquity
States with limited