Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, Yamoussoukro

Incongruously situated in the West African bush, the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace (French: Basilique de Notre Dame de la Paix de Yamoussoukro) in Yamoussoukro is the largest church in the world.

The Ivory Coast (Cote d'Ivoire) is only 20-30% Christian, with the remainder adhering to indigenous animist religions (25-40%) and Islam (35-40%). The great basilica was the project of the Catholic former president of the Ivory Coast, who wished it to be a monument to himself.

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History of Basilica of Our Lady of Peace

Côte d'Ivoire president Félix Houphouët-Boigny chose his birthplace of Yamoussoukro as the new capital of his country in 1983. As part of the plan for the city, the president wished to memorialize himself with the construction of what would be the "greatest church in the world." The president commissioned a stained glass window of his image to be placed beside a gallery of stained glass of Jesus and the apostles.

The basilica was constructed between 1985 and 1989 at a cost of US$300 million. It was intentionally modeled after the Basilica of Saint Peter in Rome, whose size it intentionally surpassed to become the largest church in the world. The cornerstone was laid on August 10, 1985, and was consecrated on September 10, 1990, by Pope John Paul II. Like its model in Rome, Yamoussoukro's basilica is not a cathedral. The nearby Cathedral of Saint Augustine is the seat of the bishop of the Diocese of Yamoussoukro and the principal place of worship for the city.

The basilica has aroused much international controversy, for the lavish building glittering with Italian marble sits in the middle of an impoverished African city where only a minority of homes have running water and adequate sanitation, and the cost of the basilica doubled the national debt of Côte d'Ivoire. Despite this, many of the country's Catholics are proud of their monument.

What to See at Basilica of Our Lady of Peace

The design of the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace is modeled closely on that of St. Peter's Basilica, but architect Pierre Fakhoury constructed the dome to be slightly lower and the cross on top to be larger. The finished height is 158 meters (518 feet). There is enough space to seat 7,000 people in the nave with standing room for an additional 11,000 people.

The basilica is constructed with marble imported from Italy and is furnished with 7,000 square meters of contemporary stained glass from France. Columns are plentiful throughout the basilica but are not uniform in style. Next to the basilica are two identical buildings serving as a rectory and private papal villa, respectively. The villa is reserved for papal visits, which has only occurred once.

Quick Facts on Basilica of Our Lady of Peace

Site Information
Names:Basilica of Our Lady of Peace
Country:Ivory Coast
Categories:churches
Status: active
Visitor and Contact Information
Coordinates:6.811558° N, 5.296612° W
Address:Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast
Lodging:View hotels near Basilica of Our Lady of Peace
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours and prices can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

References

  1. Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro - Wikipedia
  2. Cote d'Ivoire - CIA World Factbook
  3. Ivory Coast Cathedral Is World's Largest Christian Church - NPR Audio, March 24, 2005

More Information

View from the basilica. © John Spier
Interior of the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace. © Holly Hayes
Interior of the basilica. © John Spier

Map of Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, Yamoussoukro

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