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Thursday March 21st 2019

Monty Python's Life Of Brian | 1979

Monty Python's Life of Brian filming location: The Ribat, Monastir, Tunisia
Monty Python's Life of Brian filming location: "Welease Woger!": The Ribat, Monastir, Tunisia

Along with Rob Reiner’s This Is Spinal Tap and Mel Brooks’ (original) The Producers, this has to be one of the three funniest films ever. Well, that’s my opinion.

Very naughty boy Brian Cohen (Graham Chapman) gets mistaken for the Messiah – and makes a pretty good job of the position – in the Python team’s brilliant satire.

Monty Python's Life of Brian filming location: The Ribat, Monastir, Tunisia
Monty Python's Life of Brian filming location: The Ribat, Monastir, Tunisia

You can visit the film’s ‘Holy Land’ settings in Tunisia, where most of the film was shot in the Ribat, the fortified monastery at Monastir, previously the setting for Franco Zeffirelli’s terminally pious TV production, Jesus of Nazareth With its endless maze of passages and high walls, the Ribat is open to the public (admission charge), including the striking tower, once used as a lookout to scan for hostile ships of the Byzantine fleet.

Once a fishing port, Monastir, with its airport, is the centre of the Gulf of Hammamet’s tourist coast, though the town itself is quite small and some way from the cluster hotel complexes.

Monty Python's Life of Brian filming location: The Kasbah, Sousse, Tunisia
Monty Python’s Life of Brian filming location: ‘Jerusalem’ city walls: The Kasbah, Sousse, Tunisia

The city walls of the film are the Kasbah, on Boulevard Maréchal Tito, in Sousse, the major city and coastal resort about 25 miles west of Monastir. The Kasbah now houses Sousse Archaeology Museum, which contains an impressive collection of Roman mosaics.

Many tour guides, countless internet sites and indeed guide books, will tell you that the ‘Jerusalem’ Colosseum scene was filmed at the spectacular amphitheatre of El Djem. Well, it wasn't.

Towering over the small town of El Djem, the third largest Roman amphitheatre in the world and strikingly well-preserved, is certainly worth visiting, but it bears no resemblance to the arena seen in the film.

In fact, the scene of Brian being recruited into the People’s Front of Judea at the bloody ‘Children’s Matinee’ was filmed at the Roman Theatre of Carthage, northern Tunisia, with plenty of set-dressing and some matte painting. The theatre has seen some renovation and is again used for concerts and performances.

The final crucifixion scene uses the landscape around Matmata, toward the south of the country, the town which became home to Luke Skywalker in the Tunisia-shot Star Wars.