The Saint and The Baron
Abou Saïd El Beji, born in 1156, went to the Koranic school and the Zitouna University in Tunis. On his return from pilgrimage in 1209, he retreated into prayer and contemplation and looked for isolation far away from the town of Tunis. Following the example of his spiritual father Abdelaziz el Mahdaoui, who chose the ruins of Carthage to engage in prayer and meditation, as once did Sidi Mehrez, the Patron Saint of Saints of Tunis, a century before, Abou Saïd El Beji chose cape Carthage, also called the lighthouse promontory (Djebel Al Manar), for his spiritual retreat. His teachings draw numerous disciples to him and amongst them the most prestigious of all, Abul Hassen Chedli.
He died in 1231 and was buried near the lighthouse of cape Carthage. The development of mysticism from the XIIth century onwards made our
promontory into a much visited place and popular fervor consecrated the tomb of Sidi Bou Saïd as a place of worship. The privateers – who were government agents – placed themselves under the saint’s protection, who thus became the
« Patron Saint of Seafarers » (Rais Labhar). At the end of the summer season the faithful of the zaouïas (marabouts) of Tunis and suburbs organize liturgical processions, of which the most famous is the « Kharja of Sidi Bou Saïd ».
Mohamed Kereddine Annabi - Researcher. Archaeologist at the “Institut National du Patrimoine de Tunisie" (National Tunisian Heritage Institute).
Rodolphed’Erlanger was born on the 7th of June
1872 in Boulogne Billancourt (Paris – France) in a family of wealthy bankers. He studies at the “Académie Julian” in Paris. He paints landscapes, portraits and street scenes in Paris and Deauville, in England, in Egypt and, above all, in Tunisia, where he finally settles down. He has himself built a palace in SidiBouSaïd according to the standards of Andalusian architecture and calls the place “EnnejmaEzzahra” (Star of Venus).
There, The Baron d’Erlanger devotes himself to painting (as an Orientalist portraitist), surrounds himself with musicians of his time, starts to play the Qanun (a plucked stringed instrument) and gets also interested in medieval Arabic treatises on music. He ends up with launching his huge project comprising, amongst others, the translation of these treatises in French as well as the gathering and transcription of the musical repertoire of his time. His work and his interest in music are of such an importance that king Farouk of Egypt charges him with preparing the first conference on Arabic music, held from the 28th of March till the 3rd of April 1932. Erlanger gets
working on the project with the help of musicians of Tunisia and the Near-East. Unfortunately his health prevents him from going to Cairo to participate in the conference. He dies on the 29th of October of the
Thanks to his collaborators, six volumes of a history of Arabic music are published: the first volume is published during Erlanger’s lifetime (1930), the next five volumes are published in 1935, 1938, 1939, 1949 and 1959.
Erlanger’s work is an essential source of information for musicians and researchers; they all worked side by side to record and call for preservation of a heritage that, in the end, belongs to the whole of humanity.
Today the palace of Erlanger shelters the Arabic and Mediterranean Music Center as well as a permanent exhibition of music instruments installed in the palace enclosure. The exhibition comprises the personal collection of the Baron d’Erlanger as well as traditional Tunisian instruments.
Arts and Literature remember your precious work,
And Arab music sheds tears for your memory.
It revives by your care, immortal, and embellishes the centuries with its finery;
Baron, you turned your back to life and you disappeared to heaven.
Your name shall remain engraved in our memory,
And it will be our task to perpetuate it;
This is a token of Art’s faithfulness to its Spiritual Father.
This poem, translated from Arabic, is a token of acknowledgement of the Tunisian Music Association, which can be read on the gravestone of the Baron d’Erlanger, who died in Tunis on the 29th of October
1932 at the age of sixty.