The Basilique de Notre Dame de la Paix
(Our Lady of Peace
, Yamoussoukro Basilica
is currently the largest church in the world. It is located in Yamoussoukro
, Côte d'Ivoire
; only a small city (1990 est. pop. 100 000) to house a structure of such immense proportions.
Yamoussoukro was the home of Côte d'Ivore's long-term president Félix Houphouët-Boigny, who designated it in 1983 to become the capital. Houphouët-Boigny ordered the rapid construction of the church, modeled after the Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome, but twice as big as its Roman example. It was built in only three years (compared to over 100 years for the Saint Peter's). The church was completed in 1989, and dedicated by Pope John Paul II in 1990.
Some facts and figures to show the massive scale of this structure; the church has seating for about 7000 people, but can accommodate up to 18000 worshippers. At 7.4 acres, the esplanade is slightly larger than the St. Peter's, and can house as many as 300 000 pilgrims. The building is supported by 272 Doric columns that rise up to 101 feet (31 m). The center of the basilica consists of a gigantic dome, rising up to 489 feet (140 m). Although this is slightly lower than the St. Peter's (by papal request), it is topped by a huge golden cross, making it the tallest church in all Christendom.
The church came at the price of 300 million dollars; equal to half of the national budget deficit. That's right, half of the national budget deficit. Maintenance costs are about 1.5 million dollars per annum. A hefty price tag, especially considering that from Côte d'Ivoire's 15 million inhabitants, 60% is Muslim and only 22% is Christian.
All the statues in this African church are white, except a single black pilgrim kneeling at the feet of Christ. Not surprisingly, the pilgrim shows a remarkable resemblance to Félix Houphouët-Boigny.