Must-See Basilica of Our Lady of Peace Ivory Coast. Ivory Coast located on the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa for centuries was comprised of several kingdoms. In 1843, Ivory Coast became a protectorate of France until it gained its independence in 1960. Felix Houphouet-Boigny ruled the country from 1960 until 1993 bringing relative stability and prosperity to Ivory Coast. Unfortunately, over the last two decades the country has been marked by several civil wars and a coup d’etat.
In 1983, President Houphouet-Boigny, declared Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast’s administrative and political capital. This former village of palm tree plantations was the birthplace of President Houphouet-Boigny. Yamoussoukro became the 4th capital in the last 100 years or so, joining the club with Grand-Bassam, Bingerville, and Abidgan.
This nation of 23 million is a multi-ethnic state, with approximately 35% of the population each practicing Christianity and Islam with the remainder practicing traditional animism. Despite the country not being a majority Christian (only approximately 10% are Catholics) nation, Ivory Coast and specifically Yamoussoukro is known for the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace. Guinness World Records lists this basilica as the largest church in the world, surpassing St. Peter’s Basilica. The basilica broke ground in 1985 and was completed in 1989. Wild cost estimates range from $175 to $600 million dollars (this expenditure doubled the nation’s debt). John Paul II consecrated the basilica in 1990. The basilica tops out at 158 meters (518 feet) high as it towers over the vast desolate fields. For those who have been to the Vatican, you will note a lot of similarities, since the basilica was inspired by the Basilica of St. Peter.
Italian marble and French stained glass (over 23,000 square feet) were imported to build this beautiful monstrosity. The basilica can sit 7,000 worshippers with an additional 11,000 standing.
Pulling up in my car, the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace rises from a dusty field, a lone structure, isolated. I ambled from the empty parking lot to the basilica, and as I approached, I began to appreciate the tremendous scale. For those who have visited the Vatican, it will become immediately apparent that the basilica is not too popular with visitors. Instead of waiting in line for hours, a visit to the basilica in Yamoussoukro will find you in the company of only a dozen or two other visitors. It is a solitary experience.
My mouth mostly agape, I feasted my eyes on the interior of the basilica. I was awed by the thirty-six towering stain glass windows with scintillating colors.
I was provided with a private tour guide for my visit, not because I am a VIP, but because there are virtually no visitors. In fact, on average only 350 worshippers show up for Sunday mass.
Oddly, photos are not allowed in the basilica until you take an elevator to the second level, where you are provided with a bird eye’s view of the interior. After taking in the interior, I was led out to the roof, where I was able to overview the marble and granite plaza which can fit 300,000 people.
The day ended as the sun fell behind the basilica.
Must-See Basilica of Our Lady of Peace Ivory Coast
Ivory Coast is my 129th country.