Ivory Coast: Yamoussoukro – Basilica of Our Lady of Peace

Basilica of Our Lady of Peace in Yamoussoukro is the largest church in the world, beating St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican. It occupies 30,000 sq m(320,000 sq ft)and is 158 m (518 ft) high. The church cost over $300 million to built in 1985 at the whim of the Ivory Coast’s President (de facto ruler for life) Felix Houphouet-Boigny, obsessed with his African dictator/benevolent father figure legacy. The grotesque basilica stands in contrast to otherwise classic West African poverty just outside its gates. Built as a symbol of national pride, it saw Ivory Coast plunge into civil wars and upheavals in the 1990s. The grand structure is indeed quite impressive (photography is not allowed on the ground level for some bizarre reason, but is ok from the top floor). Pope John Paul II was appalled by the excessive grandeur of the church, but agreed to consecrate it in 1990 on condition a hospital was to be built nearby. That construction was actually frozen after consecration and only finished by 2015 when cocoa prices went up. It takes $1.5 million to maintain the church that can accommodate 18,000 worshipers but hardly ever sees more then a few hundred.