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Monday, July 15, 2013

St. Louis Cathedral in Carthage, Tunisia

One of the attractions Tunis, the capital of the North African nation of Tunisia, offers is the opportunity to visit the remains of Carthage, the mortal enemy of ancient Rome.  

Carthage is actually a suburb of Tunis with a population numbering a little over 20,000 people.  Like many suburban municipalities, without a map it can be difficult to tell when you pass from Tunis proper and into Carthage, 

La cath├ędrale Saint-Louis de Carthage

especially if you are a tourist riding in a taxicab after asking the driver, in broken French, to show you the city.

The original Carthage was destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC after a three year siege during the third Punic War.  Carthage was later rebuilt and it is the ruins of that rebuilt city that one can visit on Byrsa hill overlooking the Gulf of Tunis on the Mediterranean Sea.  

Also located on the Byrsa Hill and next to the ruins of Carthage is the Cathedral of St. Louis or La cath├ędrale Saint-Louis de Carthage.

The cathedral was built between 1884 and 1890 during the period when Tunisia was a part of France's 19th century colonial empire (Tunisia gained its independence from France in 1956).  

The French King Louis IX (St. Louis) launched the Eighth Crusade in 1270.  His strategy was to establish a beachhead at Carthage in Tunisia an use that city as a base to attack Egypt.  

King Louis and his forces landed at Carthage on July 17, 1270 and prepared to lay siege to Tunis.  However, poor drinking water led to an epidemic of dysentery in the French camp which resulted in many deaths including that of Louis on August 25th.  There is a small monument to Louis IX somewhere on the grounds around the Carthage ruins which supposedly marks the spot where some of his entrails were buried during the preparation of his body for the trip back to France.

Given the that Carthage was where St. Louis died, it was only natural to name the cathedral after him.  However, today the Church is no longer a house of worship but has been turned into a concert hall.  For a small fee tourists can visit the inside of the Cathedral but we didn't have time to do this on our shot visit.

I have also used the photo above to illustrate the following articles I have published on

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