Maximilian Ryllo, a catholic missionary, an archaeologist and a philosopher, is the real pride of Belarus. Thanks to him, the whole world learned about the Middle East and North Africa, famous for their archaeological sites.
There is not much detailed information available about this person’s life. But it is known for sure that Maximilian Stanislav Ryllo was born in 1802 in the town of Podorsk, Volkovysk district, Grodno province, into an impoverished noble family. In 1817 he finished school and entered the Jesuit College in Polotsk, where he received Master’s Degree in Philosophy. In 1820 Maximilian entered the Faculty of Medicine at the Vilnius University. The Russian Empire (today’s Belarus was a part of it then), introduced a ban on the Jesuits’ activities, and Ryllo was forced to set off to Rome. There he studied Philosophy and Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University. He was awarded the title of Philosophy Professor and began teaching in Jesuit schools.
In 1836, commissioned by Pope Gregory XVI, Ryllo went to Lebanon, where he studied the possibilities of opening a Catholic academy. Maximilian Ryllo was appointed the first inspector of the Vatican in Asia Minor and traveled extensively around that part of the world. In April 1837, Ryllo arrived in Damascus, and from there went to Baghdad and the ancient cities of Mosul and Nineveh. There he met the representatives of local religious movements and organized archaeological excavations. Maximilian Ryllo was one of the first people to study ancient Babylon remains.
At the end of 1837, Ryllo returned to Rome and presented the Pope with a big report about the situation in the Middle East. Ryllo proposed the establishment of a Catholic youth college. Gregory XVI liked this project, and two years later Ryllo headed a mission in Syria, where in Beirut he founded “Cоllegium Asiaticum” which also had a museum and a printing house. In 1875, this educational institution received the status of a university, which functions to this day and bears the name of Maximilian Ryllo.
In 1844, Ryllo went to Malta, where he opened an all-boys Catholic school. Two years later, he sailed to the neighboring island of Sicily to act there as a preacher.
Later, Maximilian Ryllo returned to Rome and became rector of the Roman Collegium. But already two years later, Pope Pius IX, the successor of Gregory XVI, appointed him apostolic vicar in Central Africa – in the Sudanese capital Khartoum.
In 1848 Ryllo travelled to Cairo and Alexandria. According to some reports, the famous scientist and preacher departed his life on June 17, 1848 due to dysentery during his trip to North Africa. The body of Maximilian Ryllo was initially buried in Khartoum, and in 1900 the remains were transported to Cairo, the capital of Egypt, where they were buried in the ancient cemetery of Al-Matariya.