Djemma Ali Bitchine


The Djemma Ali Bitchine, which dates to 1622, is a mosque with an unusual domed design clearly influenced by Italian or Byzantine churches. That it should be so is perhaps less of a surprise when you learn that it was in fact built by a former Christian who converted to Islam. Like several other mosques, this one was used as a church during the French occupation, when it was known as Notre Dame des Victoires. The minaret was destroyed towards the end of the 19th century. The building was reclaimed as a mosque in 1962.

In the rough days of Algerian piracy, when a man might be snatched off a ship in the high sea and given a choice of slavery or conversion, there were many so-called renegades, people around the Mediterranean who changed religion. Ali Bitchine was one. A sailor from Venice, his original name may have been Piccinino. Whoever he had been in Italy, in Algiers he was a sailor who, by the time he commissioned the construction of this mosque, had risen to become a grand admiral of the fleet.

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