Basilica of Yamoussoukro history
The cornerstone for the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro was laid in 1985 and the church stood completed four years later. It was later consecrated in 1990 by Pope John Paul II. The basilica was constructed using exotic materials, including imported stained glass windows from France and marble from Italy.
As one can imagine, the price tag for the stunning Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro was quite hefty. The total cost landed on more than 300 million dollar; a huge amount which added a lot to the national debt of Côte d’Ivoire – some say it even doubled it.
The man behind the Basilica of Yamoussoukro was the Côte d’Ivoire president Félix Houphouët-Boigny. As a way to memorialize himself, he ordered the construction of what he called “the greatest church in the world”. Many of Africa’s leaders in the 1970’s and 1980’s were prone to using their countries’ meager resources to build some outrageous buildings that were not exactly suited to the climate, but which very much suited their egos.
Another example of this is the fact that the president commissioned a stained glass window of his image to be placed beside a gallery of stained glass of Jesus and the apostles. This image of Félix Houphouët-Boigny depicts him as one of the three Biblical Magi, kneeling as he offers a gift to Jesus.
The Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro has been criticized for many reasons. The lavishly built basilica sits in the middle of the African bush in an impoverished city where only a minority of homes has running water and adequate sanitation.
The basilica was also criticized by many art historians and critics, for being a modern pastiche of a western Renaissance masterpiece and for not having any relation with modern styles of architecture or African culture. Another point of criticism is that only a minority of the Cote d’Ivoire inhabitants are Christians; the majority is either Muslims or some indigenous religion.
Why visit Basilica of Yamoussoukro ?
Despite the controversy surrounding the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro, the majority of the local people are rather proud of it. When looking at it, it’s easy to understand why. It is a remarkably beautiful building.
Throughout the basilica, one can find hundreds of decorative columns. The smaller ones are used for design and structural reasons but some of the larger ones actually contain elevators. The inside of the cathedral is perhaps even more stunning, as 7000 square meters of contemporary stained glass windows creates an enchanting aura.
Apart from the basilica itself, the area consists of two identical buildings in the back, each serving as rectory and private papal villa respectively. The villa is reserved for papal visits, of which only one has occurred: when the basilica was consecrated.
Anyone familiar with the St. Peters Basilica will be able to see that this church is heavy inspired by it. Both share the same encircled plaza and a similar massive dome. Despite its grand appearance and contrary to popular belief, this basilica is not a cathedral. The nearby Cathedral of Saint Augustine is the principal place of worship and seat of the bishop.
This Roman Catholic basilica is actually listed as the largest church in the whole world. The Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro can accommodate a total of 18.000 worshippers; 7.000 inside the church and another 11.000 at the plaza.
While the famous St. Peters Basilica in the Vatican City can accommodate more than three times the number of people, it does not match this massive basilica when it comes to total area covered.
Basilica of Yamoussoukro location
The Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro is situated in the West African bush. It is located on the west side of Yamoussoukro, the official capitol of the Ivory Coast.
The easiest way of getting to the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro from afar is by airplane; the Yamoussoukro Airport is located in the region.
For the exact location of Basilica of Yamoussoukro, check out the location Map to the right.
Ivory Coast Map
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