An important seaport of Egypt, on the left bank of the Nile. It was founded by Alexander the Great to replace the small borough called Racondah or Rakhotis, 331 B.C. The Ptolemies, Alexander's successors on the throne of Egypt, soon made it the intellectual and commercial metropolis of the world. Cæsar who visited it 46 B.C. left it to Queen Cleopatra, but when Octavius went there in 30 B.C. he transformed the Egyptian kingdom into a Roman province. Alexandria continued prosperous under the Roman rule but declined a little under that of Constantinople.
When, after the treaty of October, 642, the Byzantines abandoned it to Amru, the Arab invaders hastened its ruin owing to the conqueror's impatience to build a new town, Cairo, and to transfer to it the government of Egypt henceforth a Mussulman province. The ruin had been great under the Arabians, but it became worse under the Turkish rule when the victories of Selim had subjugated the valley of the Nile in 1517. Bonaparte on the 2d of July, 1798, did not find more than 7,000 inhabitants in the town. Since then, thanks to the efforts of Mehemet Ali and to the great political and commercial events of the nineteenth century, the city of Alexandria has become once more the first port of the Eastern Mediterranean with 235,000 inhabitants.
Christianity was brought to Alexandria by the Evangelist St. Mark. It was made illustrious by a lineage of learned doctors such as Pantænus, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen ; it has been governed by a series of great bishops amongst whom Athanasius and Cyril must be mentioned. Under Dioscurus, successor of Cyril, Eutychianism appeared and the native population saw in it an excellent means of freeing themselves from Byzantium. Their zeal for this heresy transformed the town into a battle-field where blood was shed more than once during the fifth, sixth, and seventh centuries. At last the patriarchal church of St. Mark found itself divided into two communions; the native Copts bound to error, and the foreign Greeks faithful to orthodoxy. After the Arabian conquest, the Greek patriarchate remained vacant for many years; at the time of the Byzantine emperors and under the Ottoman sultan its holders were obliged to live habitually at Constantinople. On the other hand, the Copt patriarchate transferred itself to Cairo and saw most of its disciples become Mussulmans. Today, owing to its commercial importance, Alexandria possesses within its walls every tongue and Christian race: Copts, Greeks, Latins, Armenians, Maronites, Syrians, Chaldeans, Protestants.
(1) The Copts, a small community, are divided into Monophysites and Catholics ; the chief of the first is the Patriarch of Alexandria, and resides at Cairo; the chief of the latter is also Patriarch of Alexandria since Leo XIII created this title in favour of Mgr. Macaire, 19 June, 1899.
(2) The Greeks also form two groups, the so-called Orthodox and the Melchites. The Orthodox, separated from Rome, are divided into two factions which differ in language and origin, and live in enmity: on one side, the Hellenophones, many of whom are natives of the Greek kingdom; on the other, the Arabophones, subject to the Khedive or natives of Syria ; all these have a patriarch of Greek tongue and race whose official residence is in the town, near the church of St. Sabas. The Melchites, united to Rome, are natives of Egypt and Syria ; they are under the Patriarch of Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and all the East, but, as the prelate resides at Damascus, they are governed by a bishop who is vicar of the patriarchate.
(3) The Latins have no patriarch. A Latin patriarchate was created by the Crusaders who took Alexandria in 1202 and in 1367; but this patriarchate, established residentially from 1859 to 1866, is become again merely nominal. Now, nothing but an apostolical vicariate exists; the vicar, a member of the Friars Minor of St. Francis has specially under his direction the Europeans of foreign colonies.
(5) The Maronites, whose number is increasing every day, wish to constitute a diocese. In the meanwhile they are governed by priests appointed by the Patriarch of the Lebanon.
(6) To the 300 Syrian Catholics of Alexandria and Cairo, a chorepiscopus who resides in the latter town is given.
(7) Still less numerous, the United Chaldeans possess no special organization.
(8) The Protestants are represented at Alexandria by numerous sects ; the Anglican Church has a community since the middle of the nineteenth century and a school ; the Scotch Free Church has a church since 1867 and a school ; the Evangelical Church of Germany, established in the town since 1857, opened a church in 1866 and a little school. But these are for foreign residents; the mission of the United Presbyterian Church of the United States has a church and two schools for the Copts (about 100 members). Moreover, most of the Protestant missions which work among the Copts of Upper Egypt have stations or lodgings at Alexandria.
We must say the same of every religious order of Catholic missionaries in Egypt. Several of these orders have scholastic establishments. The Jesuits direct the college of St. Francis Xavier. The Brothers of the Christian Schools conduct a college to which a school of arts and trades is attached. They have also free classes and different schools in various parts of the town. The education of young girls is conducted by different religious congregations, such as the Sisters of Charity, the Sisters of the Mother of God, and the Sisters of the Délivrande.
The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed between 1907 and 1912 in fifteen hard copy volumes.
Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.
No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.
Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912
Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online