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PHOTOS

The World’s Largest Church Just Needs Some Worshippers

We visit the vast, intimidating basilica looming large over a tiny, impoverished city
Nov 04, 2013 at 1:00 PM ET
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Imagine the world’s largest church in one of the world’s most faraway places—vast, imposing and also pretty empty.

Welcome to the Basilique de Notre Dame de la Paix (Basilica of Our Lady of Peace) in Africa’s Cote d’Ivoir, or Ivory Coast. It’s been a generation since  the Pope consecrated this giant almost-replica of St Peter’s Basilica. So Vocativ decided to pay a visit during Sunday mass and see how it all turned out.

Yes, the church remains giant as ever. Giant and bare.

Former President Felix Houphouet-Boigny built the barren prayer ground near the Southern swamplands—in Yamoussoukro, the country’s impoverished capital some 150 miles from bustling Abidjan. Houphouet-Boigny dreamed up the church in the late 1980s to commemorate the Coast’s 25 years of independence from French rule.

And while the behemoth church fits 18,000 worshippers, weekly mass these days draws no more than 500.

Below, pictures of the basilica’s construction and some we just took of a recent Sunday mass:

Construction began in 1986. Houphouet-Boigny was inspired by St. Peter’s and crafted his church with its Rome counterpart in mind. The church features a cross design and oval colonnade.

The church’s design includes 272 Doric columns.

The church’s gold-plated dome measures 489 feet tall.

The city of Yamoussoukro lies beyond the church. Beside the church are a refectory and papal villa.

Houphouet-Boigny constructed a special highway leading to the church. He also built a nearby airport to transport worshippers.

A sidecut of the church (right) reveals its size relative to St. Peter’s (left).

An aerial shot of the church reveals its mammoth size and neighboring forest.