Archdiocese of Caesarea in Numidia
- For the homonymous bishopric in Asia, see the Archdiocese of Caesarea in Anatolia.
The Holy Archdiocese of Caesarea and All Numidia is a titular diocese of the Patriarchate of Alexandria. It belonged to the Patriarchate of Rome as the metropolitan archdiocese of Mauretania until its fall during the Islamic conquest of the Maghreb in the 8th century.
Caesarea was first founded as a Phoenician trading settlement around 400 BC under the name of Jol in present-day Algeria. The city became part of the Kingdom of Numidia around 100 BC and received fortifications, serving as residential palace of some of its kings. In 46 BC, the Roman Empire annexed half of Numidia into the new province of Africa Nova, and Jol, now named Caesarea in honor of the emperor, became the capital of the loyal Kingdom of Mauretania. The city was rebuilt as a Roman town in fine Roman style, featuring many expensive buildings like mausoleums, theaters and a lighthouse. The population at that time was heavily of Greek and Phoenician origin.
In 40 AD, the murdering of its king Ptolemy (20–40) by Emperor Caligula (37–41) resulted in a war which devastated the region. Emperor Claudius (41–54) conquered the Mauretania and established the homonymous province, Caesarea being its capital. The significant city now had many other buildings such as a forum, hippodrome, amphitheater, school of philosophy, academy and library.
From an early stage, the city had a small but growing population of Christians, Roman and Berber and was noted for the religious debates and tumults which featured the hostility of Roman public religion toward Christians. After the Great Persecution of Diocletian (284–305), the conversion of the population from pagan to Christian beliefs resulted in nearly all of the population being Christianised.
Its first recorded archbishop is Fortunatus, who was present in the First Council of Arles under Saint Constantine, which anathematized the Donatist heresy. The next recorded archbishop is Clemens during the African revolt under Valentinian I (364–375). The city was sacked by Berber tribes during a revolt in 371/372 AD, but recovered. By the 5th century, the town became a Donatist center and at the Sixth Council of Carthage in 411 both Archbishop Deuterius and heresiarch Emeritus were present. Saint Augustine has left an account of his public confrontation with Emeritus at Caesarea in the autumn of 418, after which Emeritus was exiled.
It became a target of the Vandals and was finally taken over by the arian king Gaiseric (428–477) in 429. The Vandal army and fleet burnt the town and turned many of its old magnificent Roman era buildings into Vandal citadels. Although this devastation was significant, the Vandal era saw restoration of much of the damage, an expansion in population, and the creation of a vibrant Romanised Germanic community. The last Archbishop of Caesarea whose name is known from written documents was Apocorius, one of the bishops whom arian king Huneric (477–484) summoned to Carthage in 484 and then sent into exile.
The area and remained in Vandal hands until 533 AD, when the city was captured by the holy Emperor Justinian I. The new rulers used the Greek language along with Latin, but the Neo-Latin local dialect remained in use by the inhabitants. The city declined. The Roman and the semi-Romanised Vandal population held a stratified position over the growing numbers of Berbers it allowed to settle in return for cheap labor. This reduced the economic status of small freeholders and urban dwellers, especially what remained of the Vandal population, who provided most of the local military forces. Furthermore, the increasing use of Berber workers ground down the Roman population of free peasants. By the 8th century, the city and surrounding area had neither a strong urban middle class of free citizens, nor a rural population of freehold farmers, nor a crack military aristocracy of Vandal warriors and their retinue. It thus succumbed to the Islamic conquest of the Maghreb in early 8th century.
Despite conversion to Christianity is not outlawed anymore in Algeria, persecutions by the local Muslim population currently makes it impossible to reconstruct the ancient see of Caesarea in Mauretania. Its territory and Eastern Orthodox missionary activities in Algeria and North Africa are maintained by the Archdiocese of Carthage in Tunisia since 1931.
In 2018, Patriarch Theodoros II enthroned the Most Reverend Archbishop Petros at the titular See of Caesarea following his resignation from Ethiopia. By the time of his blessed repose in 2020, he was the longest-serving living hierarch of the Alexandrian Throne, serving a total of 46 years as bishop, 39 as the pastor of Ethiopia.
- Ancient bishops
- Fortunatus (fl. 314)
- Clemens (fl. 375)
- Denterius (fl. 411)
- Apocorius (fl. 484)
(supressed in the 8th century following the Islamic conquest of the Maghreb)
- Modern bishops
- Petros (Giakoumelos) (2018–2020)