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Archdiocese of Cyrene

The Holy Archdiocese of Cyrene and the Libyan Sea is a titular diocese in Egypt under the jurisdiction of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa. The archdiocesan area is currently served by the Archdiocese of Tripoli.


The city of Cyrene was founded during the 7th century BC as a Greek colony near port Apollonia. It was also the oldest settlement of eastern Libya, being the capital of the Kingdom of Cyrenaica, established by its founder Battus I (630–600 BC). Between the city and the port, there was a ten-kilometer-long necropolis in which Silphium, an extinct plant praised for its universal use as medicine, was cultivated. Cyrene reached the height of its prosperity under its own kings in the 5th century BC. Soon after it became a republic. In 413 BC, during the Peloponnesian War, Cyrene was allied with the Spartan forces.

In the 4th century BC, Cyrene became subject to the Pharaoh of the Ptolemaic Empire. In the 3rd century BC, Magas (276–250 BC) broke with the son of his stepfather the Pharaoh Ptolemy I (367–282 BC) and restored the Kingdom of Cyrenaica under the Seleucid Empire. In 250 Magas was defeated by Ptolemy II (284–246 BC), and Cyrene was reabsorbed into Egypt. In the 1st century BC, Cyrene was finally part of the Roman Empire under the province of Crete and Cyrenaica.

At this time, Cyrene had a significant Jewish population, which may explain the fact that Simon of Cyrene carried the Cross of Christ. In the Acts of the Apostles there is mention of people from Cyrene being in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. The glorious Apostle Mark was himself a native from Cyrene, and preached in the region. It seems that he appointed Saint Lucius of Cyrene, one of the founders of Antioch, as the first bishop of the Diocese of Cyrene. The next known bishop is Saint Theodore, the first archbishop of the Archdiocese of Cyrene (now capital of the province of Libya Superior), who was martyred together with his Cyrenean flock during Diocletian's (284–305) Great Persecution in 303.

Cyrene returned to the condition of Diocese of Cyrene in 365 following a devastating earthquake, Ptolemais being chosen as new capital of Libya Superior. Archbishop Synesius of Ptolemais (410–414), Cyrenean himself, lists bishops Philo I and his son Philo II during the times of Saint Athanasius (328–373). He also described the once-glorious city as “a vast ruin at the mercy of the nomads”. The next recorded bishop is Rufus, who was present in the Robber Council of Ephesus in 449. The last known bishop before the ultimate fall of Cyrene under the Islamic invasion was Leontius during the times of Saint Eulogius (580–608).

The see of Cyrene will appear again in History as the Archdiocese of Cyrene and All the Pontic Barbaria at the second half of the 19th century in Ottoman Tripolitania, although obviously located in another city. It is not known at which point in History Cyrene was restored as an archdiocese, but it was again suppressed following the repose of Archbishop Spyridon in 1876. Between 1876 and 1884, the Alexandrian Throne would remain without a single archbishopric under its omophorion. In 1884, every territory outside Egypt was put under the Archdiocese of Libya.

In 1990, as titular Diocese of Cyrene for the Patriarchal Exarch of Alexandria to the Church of Greece, the current Patriarch Theodoros II was elected bishop; and in 1999, as the titular diocese for the Patriarchal Exarch of Alexandria to the Church of Russia, Archmandrite Athanasios Kykkotis was elected. On October 6, 2009, the see of Cyrene was elevated to a titular archdiocese of the Patriarchal Throne, receiving its current name.

Ruling bishops

Ancient bishops
  • St. Lucius (fl. 1st c.)
  • St. Theodoros I (fl. 4th c.)
  • Philo I (fl. 4th c.)
  • Philo II (fl. 4th c.)
  • Rufus (fl. 5th c.)
  • Leontius (fl. 6th c.)

(supressed in the 7th century following the Islamic conquest of the Maghreb)

Modern bishops
  • Spyridon (?) 1867–1876

(suppressed in 1884 due to vacancy to establish the Archdiocese of Libya)