Of Gods and Men (French: Des Hommes et des dieux) is a 2010 French drama film directed by Xavier Beauvois, starring Lambert Wilson and Michael Lonsdale. Its original French language title is Des Hommes et des dieux, which means “Of Men and of gods” and refers to a verse from the Bible shown at the beginning of the film. It centers on the monastery of Tibhirine, where nine Cistercian monks lived in harmony with Algeria’s mostly Muslim population until seven of them were kidnapped and assassinated in 1996 during the Algerian Civil War.
Largely a tale of a peaceful situation between local Christians and Muslims before becoming a lethal one due to external forces, the screenplay focuses on the preceding chain of events in the decay of government, expansion of terrorism, and the monks’ confrontation with both the terrorists and the government authorities that led to their deaths. Principal photography took place at an abandoned monastery in Azrou, Morocco.
The film premiered at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Grand Prix, the festival’s second most prestigious award. It became a critical and commercial success in its domestic market, and won both the Lumières Award and César Award for Best Film.
All of the murdered monks were French. They were: Dom Christian de Chergé, Brother Luc (born Paul Dochier), Father Christophe (Lebreton), Brother Michel (Fleury), Father Bruno (born Christian Lemarchand), Father Célestin (Ringeard), and Brother Paul (Favre-Miville)
At approximately 1:15 AM on 27 March 1996, about twenty armed members of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) arrived at the monastery of Tibhirine and kidnapped seven monks. Two others, Father Jean-Pierre and Father Amédée, were in separate rooms and escaped the kidnappers’ notice. After the kidnappers left, the remaining monks attempted to contact the police, but found that the telephone lines had been cut. As there was a curfew in force, they had to wait until morning to drive to the police station in Médéa.
On 18 April, the GIA’s communiqué no. 43 announced that they would release the monks in exchange for Abdelhak Layada, a former GIA leader who had been arrested three years earlier. On 30 April, a tape with the voices of the kidnapped monks, recorded on 20 April, was delivered to the French Embassy in Algiers. On 23 May, the GIA’s communiqué no. 44 reported that they had executed the monks on 21 May. The Algerian government announced that their heads had been discovered on May 31; the whereabouts of their bodies are unknown. The funeral Mass for the monks was celebrated in the Catholic Cathedral of Notre-Dame d’Afrique (Our Lady of Africa) in Algiers on Sunday, 2 June 1996. Their remains were buried in the cemetery of the monastery at Tibhirine two days later.
The surviving two monks of Tibhirine left Algeria and travelled to a Trappist monastery near Midelt in Morocco..
Martyrs of Algeria
The 7 monks of the Our Lady of the Atlas, who were kidnapped and later beheaded, were beatified with 12 other martyrs of Algeria on December 8, 2018. The celebration occurred in Oran, Algeria.