Basilica in the Jungle: World's Largest Church
The Basilica of Our Lady of Peace (Basilique Notre-Dame de la Paix) is located in Yamoussoukro, little known capital of the Ivory Coast.
Côte d'Ivoire which is also known as the Ivory Coast is host to one of the biggest churches in the World. The Basilica of Our Lady of Peace (Basilique Notre-Dame de la Paix) is actually larger than the St.Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.
The Basilica was constructed between 1985 and 1989 at a cost of 300 million US dollars. It covers an area of 30,000 square metres and is 158 metres high.
The Basilica takes on the model of St Peter’s Basilica and is said that Pope John Paul II requested the cupola to be slightly lower so as not to surpass the papal one.
Houphouët-Boigny who was president then agreed to this request, however, he topped it with a giant golden cross, making the Basilica the world’s tallest church.
Built with the finest marble from Italy and 5,000 shades of stained glass windows from France with one showing Houphouët-Boigny kneeling in front of Jesus it can accommodate up to 18,000 worshippers. The seats have also been fitted with personal air-conditioning.
After it was completed, Felix Houphouet-Boigny who was the president of the Ivory Coast gifted the Basilica to the Vatican. Pope John II consecrated it on 10 September 1990 to a crowd of 300,000.
Why then the name Basilica in the Jungle? The construction was full of controversy. Now, many people know Abidjan to be the capital city of the Ivory Coast, however, 240 kilometres north-west of Abidjan is Yamoussoukro which is the capital city by law. Here is where the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace is located.
Yamoussoukro was initially known as N’Gokro after Kouassi N’Go and when Queen Yamoussou took over from N’Go, it was renamed Yamoussoukro. The suffix Kro means town in Baoule. The city is also the birthplace of former president Felix Houphouet-Boigny.
He made Yamoussoukro political and administrative capital in 1983. He constructed magnificent structures such as the five-star Hôtel Président and a marble-floored, rarely-used convention centre but embassies and ministries never relocated to this small town from Abidjan, making the location of the Basilica deserted.
As a condition for consecrating the Basilica Pope John Paul instructed that a hospital be built near the church which to date remains unfinished.
The attendance at the Basilica services is also low given the fact that Ivory Coast is primarily Islam.
According to the 2014 census Muslims have the highest percentage of 42% as compared to Christians at 34%.
With the many million dollars going into the construction of the Basilica it doubled the country’s national debt.
Currently, the maintenance cost which is estimated to be around 1.5 million US dollars annually, is paid for by the foundation set up by the former president.
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