Basilica of Our Lady of Peace | Yamoussoukro
In the capital of Cote d'Ivoire, Yamoussoukro, lies a sacred & religious site and the only Basilica in Africa which is worth a visit.
Fun facts about the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, Yamoussoukro
It is the world's largest church (in height & size) by Guinness book
It is the only Basilica in Africa
The basilica was constructed between 1985 and 1989
It was consecrated in 1990 by Pope John Paul II
The basilica was a gift from Félix Houphouët-Boigny to the Vatican
Félix Houphouët-Boigny was the first President of Ivory Coast, and he served for more than three decades until his death.
Rumoured to cost as high as US$600M
It can accommodate up to 18,000 (7,000 seated and 11,000 standing) worshippers
The architectural design was inspired by Basilica of Saint Peter in Vatican City
US$1.3M for annual maintenance
For our understanding, a basilica is usually a church with rectangular shape and a central nave & aisles, usually with a slightly raised altar for the pope to celebrate mass. Basilicas unlike cathedrals are mainly a Catholic phenomenon with the special privileges or rights given by the pope in a document called a "Papal Brief"
My trip to Yamoussoukro from Abidjan
After discovering all the fun facts stated above, I knew I had to visit the Basilica on my solo trip to Côte d'Ivoire. On arriving my hotel in Abidjan, I asked the receptionist for directions to the Basilica and I was told to get on a 3 hours bus ride from a bus park in Abidjan, straight to Yamoussoukro. I had planned for it was going to be a day's trip, so I had to set out early enough to be able to return back to Abidjan on the same day.
I was a bit nervous, not knowing what type of bus it was going to be but quite impressed when I got to the bus park and it was modern transit bus. Yayyyy! Guess what? The bus didn't wait to get full before we set out. Quite impressive!.
After driving for about 90 mins we arrived at a toll gate. It is located on the 240km dual highway linking capital Yamoussoukro to commercial capital Abidjan. Such a strategic place to construct a toll.
Finally, we arrived at Yamoussoukro and I was directed to take a drop to the Basilica which was quite visible from the bus park.
Arriving at the Basilica of our Lady of Peace, Yamoussoukro
I could not curtail my joy on sighting the Basilica which was surrounded by iron bar fence. With excitement, I shouted, "Driver, please stop. I need to take some pictures". This was even before getting to the entrance. Why is it in the middle of nowhere?! I asked myself.
Eventually, I got to the entrance and was told to pay 2,000XOF (if memory serves me right). There are different categories (local, foreigners, student etc) of visitors and different charges apply.
I was ushered in after paying and was introduced to Mr. Philip, my 'tour guide'. He said "How do you do". I almost passed out. He speaks English??! Yayyyyyy!. He stared at me not knowing the struggles I had been through since I touched down at the airport in Abidjan. He was such a brilliant man and extremely helpful. He selflessly took me on a tour of the Basilica and acted as my photographer.
The Architecture and some history of the Basilica
Picture 1&2 below: While designing the Basilica in Yamoussoukro after the Vatican Basilica (St' Peter), Lebanese architect Pierre Fakhoury constructed the dome to be slightly lower than the Basilica of St' Peter, but ornamented with a larger cross on top. The finished height is 158 metres (518 ft). This was after Pope John Paul II requested the dome (also called a cupola) be slightly lower so as not to surpass the papal one. It appears that the Felix and Pierre complied, but instead topped it with a giant golden cross, making this the world’s tallest church. LOL.
Picture 3 below: The basilica is constructed with marble imported from Italy and is furnished with contemporary stained glass from France.
Even after knowing how this architectural wonder was constructed, the actual sight still rendered me speechless. I most definitely enjoyed this amazing trip to the Basilica. It was interestingly peaceful, serene and one of the most amazing sites I have witnessed. Definitely, a bewildering legacy of the country’s founding father.
I forgot to mention. there is also a restaurant and cafe on the site. Quite pricey too.
Set out very early from Abidjan for you plan a day trip
Relax, it is safe
At the Basilica, ask for an English tour guide. Preferably Mr, Philip :)
Be wiser than me, don't wear black
Carry enough money
Carry an handkerchief. I assume you will travel during summer
Maximise your trip to Yamoussoukro and ask to visit the late President Felix Houphouet-Boigny residence which is surrounded by Crocodiles