The Basilica of Our Lady of Peace


Video from Aljazeera


This is the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, a colossal structure which is the world’s largest single church building of any denomination, substantially bigger than its nearest competitor, St. Peter’s in Rome. The Basilica of Our Lady of Peace is a strikingly traditional design with a dome that recalls St. Peter’s (although taller), and the whole richly ornamented edifice looks like a monument to Europe’s Tridentine faith, although it was dedicated only in 1990.

So how did it get here?

Yamous­soukro's Cathedral is due to one man: Félix Houphouët-Boigny, who can legitimately claim to be the father of his country. Born in Ya­mous­soukro in 1905, he was a tribal chief who became the leading figure in what was then a tiny agricultural settlement. By 1950 it still had just 500 residents.

In 1983, he made Yamoussoukro the country’s political and administrative capital, displacing Abidjan, which was redefined as the economic center. Yamoussoukro became the center of a wildly ambitious building boom.

A church for the capital in Papa Houphouët's mind meant the kind of pre-Vatican II Catholicism that he had grown up with. The result was the basilica, consecrated in 1990 by Pope John Paul II.

The church can accommodate 18,000 worshipers. Today typical Sunday congregations usually run about three or four hundred. While some hope it may become a center of African pilgrimage, it is just too far removed from the centers of Catholic population, for instance, in eastern Nigeria. Currently the basilica stands as a monument to a grand flawed ambition.


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