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Ruspe or Ruspae was a town in the Roman province of Byzacena famous particularly as the episcopal see of Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe and is now a Latin Catholic titular bishopric.


The name "Ruspe" is treated as a Greek feminine singular word equivalent to Latin "Ruspa" by Henricus de Noris,[1] and is the form used in a list of dioceses that the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria saw as dependent on itself at the beginning of the 8th century.[2]

The name is taken to be really "Ruspae" (Latin feminine plural) by Alexander MacBean;[3] William Smith;[4] Morcelli;[5] Mesnage;[2] and the Annuario Pontificio.[6]

Location and name

The Tabula Peutingeriana gives as coastal towns in the Byzacena province Ruspina and Ruspe, the latter being to the south of the former.[7] Ptolemy's Geography mentions the same two towns in the same order[1] (Stevenson's admittedly defective English translation of Ptolemy gives instead Ruspina and Rheuspena).[8]

According to the Tabula Peutingeriana, Ruspe was situated between Acholla and Usilla, near the promontory that Ptolemy called Brachodes, the Caput Vadorum of the Romans, later Capaudia, Qaboudia in Arabic[4][9][10] (cf. Chebba).

The name "Ruspe" is interpreted as including the Semitic element rus, meaning "head" or "headland".[2] It is thus commonly[2][9] identified with the ruins known as Henchir Sbia (or simply Sbia) in present-day Tunisia, four miles west of that cape.[11] An alternative site is that of the ruins known as Ksour Siad.[11]

In the mid-20th century, a new argument emerged in favour of Koudiat Rosfa, 30 kilometres north of Sfax,[12] because of the discovery in 1947 of an inscription at Henchir Bou Tria[13] that seems to identify that place with ancient Acholla.[9] (Saumagne had earlier proposed to identify it with Ruspe.)[9] A nearby headland is called Rass Bou Tria.[14] This identification of Acholla gives grounds for considering Ptolemy mistaken in placing Acholla and Usilla north of Cape Brachodes, and for identifying Ruspe as Koudiat Rosfa, which is seen as having preserved the ancient name in an Arabic form.[11] Excavations at Koudiat Rosfa have not confirmed the perhaps flattering description applied to the city by Fulgentius's biographer Ferrandus: nobile oppidum clarissimis habitatoribus prorsus illustre (a noble town illustrious for its famous inhabitants).[9]

Ecclesiastical History

The city was important enough in the Roman province of Byzacena to become a suffragan of its Metropolitan of Archdiocese of Hadrumetum, but was to fade.

Bishops of Ruspe earlier than saint Fulgentius whose names are known are Secundus, who was at the Conference of Carthage in 411 that brought together Catholic and Donatist bishops – Morcelli assigns him instead to an otherwise unknown diocese of Ruspina – and Stephanus, one of the Catholic bishops whom the Arian Vandal king Huneric summoned to Carthage in 484 and then exiled. The immediate successor of Fulgentius was Felicianus, his companion in exile, who participated in a council held at Carthage in 534. In 646, Iulianus was at an anti-Monothelitism council in the same city.[2][5]

Titular see

No longer a residential bishopric, Ruspae (the spelling used in the Annuario Pontificio) is today listed by the Catholic Church as a titular see.[6]

It is vacant, having had the following incumbents, all of the lowest (episcopal) rank :

  • Vincenzo de Via (1757.12.19 – 1762.01.31)
  • Manuel Obellar, Dominican Order (O.P.) (1778.01.29 – 1789.09.07)
  • Grgo Ilijić, Friars Minor (O.F.M.) (1796.09.30 – 1799.06.01)
  • Edward Bede Slater, Benedictine Order O.S.B. (1818.06.18 – 1832.07.15)
  • Romualdo Jimeno Ballesteros, O.P. (1839.08.02 – 1846.01.19)
  • Spiridion-Salvatore-Costantino Buhadgiar, Capuchin Friars (O.F.M. Cap.) (1884.08.08 – 1891.08.10)
  • Spiridion Poloméni (1892.02.27 – 1930.09.12)
  • Joseph-Louis-Aldée Desmarais (1931.01.30 – 1939.06.22)
  • Thomas Tien-ken-sin (田耕莘), Divine Word Missionaries (S.V.D.) (1939.07.11 – 1946.02.18), as Apostolic Vicar of Yanggu 陽穀 (China) (1939.07.11 – 1942.11.10) and then Apostolic Vicar of Qingdao 青島 (China) (1942.11.10 – 1946.04.11); previously Apostolic Prefect of Yanggu 陽穀 (China) (1934.02.23 – 1939.07.11); later Cardinal-Priest of S. Maria in Via (1946.02.22 – 1967.07.24), Metropolitan Archbishop of Beijing 北京 (PR China) (1946.04.11 – 1967.07.24), Apostolic Administrator of Taipei 臺北 (Taiwan) (1959.12.16 – 1966.02.15)
  • Joseph Carroll McCormick (1947.01.11 – 1960.06.25)
  • David Monas Maloney (1960.11.05 – 1967.12.02)
  • Horacio Arturo Gómez Dávila (1968.07.03 – 1974.09.15)
  • Enzo Ceccarelli Catraro, Salesians (S.D.B.) (1974.10.05 – 1998.11.15)
  • Vlado Košić (1998.12.29 – 2009.12.05)
  • Rafael Biernaski (2010.02.10 – 2015.06.24)


Sources and external links