Augustine of Hippo also known as Saint Augustine is an early Christian theologian who has greatly influenced Western Christianity and Philosophy. His life and work has been most fascinating leaving a legacy that is cherished over the centuries. Learn about the history of Augustine by following his footsteps in visiting historic and religious landmarks throughout Algeria.
He was born in Souk Ahras, now Thagaste, Algeria. His mother has been a devout Christian while his father turned to Christianity on his death bed. The city of Souk Ahras is the best place to begin a journey following the footsteps of this remarkable historical personality. The city is a center of the Berber culture and is considered a cradle of civilization. The name comes from the Arabic “souk” meaning market and the Berber “ahras” which is the plural for lions. The forest surrounding the city in the past has been the home of lions before they become extinct in North Africa.
Souk Ahras has significant importance in Algerian cultural and political history as it is located on the crossroad between Ancient Rome, Numide, and the Berber civilization. Even nowadays, visitors to the city can see numerous casbahs (fortifications) that justify the city’s past.
When he was 11, St. Augustine traveled to the village of M’Daourouch, a small Numidian city not more than 19 km from Thagaste where he attended the local school. The city occupies the site of the Roman town Madaurus or Madaura and is part of the Catholic Church’s list of significant religious sites. This is the birthplace of many famous and historically significant personalities like Apuleius, Nonius Marcellus, and Maximus. When visiting the city, there are several must-see places like the Roman mausoleum, the bath, the Byzantine fortress, and the Christian basilica.
In his adolescent years, St. Augustine moved to Carthage, Tunisia to continue his studies in rhetoric. It is in Carthage that he shifted from Christianity and became involved with the Manichean religion. It is specifically in Carthage that St. Augustine began leading a hedonistic lifestyle. Here he meets a young woman who became his lover and they stayed together for 15 years. She gave birth to his son, Adeodatus.
From Carthage, the journey continues to Milan, Rome, where he took on a job as a professor of rhetoric with the imperial court. It is here under the influence of his mother that St. Augustine became a Christian. He and Adeodatus were baptized in the year 388. The following year they returned to Northern Africa.
In 391, St. Augustine has been ordained a priest in Hippo Regius, now named Annaba. This is a coastal town in the Northern part of Algeria and has been a royal residence for several Numidian kings.
The grand Basilica of Saint Augustine has been built in 1881. The stone used for the construction has been imported from France and it was the well-known architect Abbe Poignet who guided the work. The architecture is an emblematic mixture of Roman, Byzantine, and Arab styles. You will be able to marvel at the extensive library, the Carraba marble, the stained glass, and the enormous arches.