The extravagant basilica of Yamoussoukro

Do you know the Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican? But are you aware of the basilica that outsizes it? 

Today I present you the largest religious building in the world: Our Lady of Peace in Yamoussoukro.

Make “Yamko” a major place to visit in Africa

In 1960 Ivory Coast became an independent country. And its first president Félix Houphouët-Boigny had the ambition to transform its native village into a major city of the African continent.

The Basilica was built in just 3 years from 1986 to 1989 and financed with the president’s personal fortune. It is said that the maintenance of the venue is still covered by the deceased politician with the interests of the bank account left for that purpose.

The pope John-Paul II accepted to bless the basilica in 1990, but asked in return for an hospital to be built in the city as well.

Grandeur and modernity

Yamoussoukro’s basilica impresses by its metrics as much as its modernity.

  • A 150-meter wide facade, which makes it the largest facade of any religious building in the world. In comparison, Saint Peter’s Basilica is 115 meters wide.
  • A dome that culminates at 150 meters, against 136 meters for the Basilica of St. Peter, and is accessible via 500 steps.
  • A capacity of 18,000 people during the mass.
  • 4 concrete columns hiding elevators which take you 111 meters high.
  • An air conditioning system inside the floor and sound attenuation in the seats and the walls of the basilica.
  • A total area of 30,000 sqm.
  • An esplanade surrounded by 128 columns which are 21 meters high and 2.20 meters in diameter. An immense dove is represented on the ground in the center of the esplanade.

The floor inside of the basilica is cleaned every day but the glass of the windows…only every 3 years.

 

 

How to leave your trace behind

For sure the basilica remains deeply linked to Houphouët-Boigny…but not just in our minds!

Out of respect for the believers, we were not allowed to take pictures of the ground floor. So unfortunately I’m not able to share with you one of the most interesting stain-glass windows!

It depicts God but not with the usual entourage from the bible. Instead of apostles, the scene shows the former Ivorian president, the architect and the people who actively worked to build up the place. Sacrilege!

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Additional information

The roundtrip drive from Abidjan to Yamoussoukro takes around 5 hours on a recent, decent road.  We paid 90 000 XOF for a taxi driver with a 7-passengers car.

The entry to the basilica costs 2000 XOF for foreigners. But it includes a group tour with either a french-speaking or english-speaking guide.

The presidential hotel is the other important sight of Yamoussoukro, for its weird shape and its interior design. Unfortunately for us, we were too short on time !