Our Lady of Peace Cathedral

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Our Lady of Peace Cathedral (Ivory Coast)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The basilica of Our Lady of Peace located in Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast, is the largest Christian church in the world. It was planned and bankrolled by Felix Houphouet-Boigny (1906–1993), the first president of the country, as part of an effort by Roman Catholics to build a following in the former French colony. By the 1980s, the country was approximately 30 percent Christian (equally split between Catholic and Protestant), 30 percent Muslim, 30 percent following traditional African religions, and 10 percent following other beliefs.

The Ivory Coast officially became a French colony in 1893, and it remained under French control until 1960. Following its independence, Houphouet-Boigny, leader of the Parti Democratique de la Cote d’Ivoire (PDCI), became president, a post he retained until his death on December 7, 1993. The early years of his presidency were marked by relative prosperity, but through the 1980s the country fell increasingly into poverty.

In 1983, Houphouet-Boigny oversaw the movement of the capital from coastal Abidjan to Yamoussoukro. He also announced plans to build the cathedral, and on August 10, 1985, Pope John Paul II blessed the building’s cornerstone. Construction was completed in 1989, but the pope refused to participate in its final consecration on September 10, 1990, reputedly because of the contradiction implied by the erection of such an expensive building in such a poverty-ridden land.

Objections aside, the completed basilica emerged as the tallest religious structure in the world. The cross on the dome reaches to 158 meters (518 feet), the dome itself being 60 meters (197 feet) high. The church has some 368 columns of various styles, and there are 36 surfaces of stained glass. It seats 7,000 people, and allows standing room for an additional 11,000 in the nave. Built in post-Renaissance style somewhat reminiscent of Saint Peter’s in Rome, Our Lady of Peace has two long wings attached to the porch that include 128 Doric columns. The wings encompass a seven-acre plaza that can accommodate 30,000 people.

The new cathedral, which seemed to be consuming so much of the country’s gross national product to serve less than twenty percent of the population, became a matter of intense controversy. To placate the other religious communities who were not Christian, the president also saw that a temple and an impressive mosque were erected in Yamoussoukro.

Sources:

Fuchs, Regina. Ivory Coast. Edison, NJ: Hunter Publishing, 1991.
Hebblewaite, Peter. “Ivory Coast’s Basilica May Turn into White Elephant.” National Catholic Reporter (March 30, 1990).