OUR LADY OF AFRICA
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Built in 1872, on a promontory 124 m above the sea, the Basilica of Notre-Dame d'Afrique is considered the counterpart of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde in Marseille. The basilica is dedicated to the Virgin. Its construction is the result of a pilgrimage that began in 1846 on the initiative of two Lyonnais, Marguerite Berger and Anna Cinquin, who placed a statuette of the Virgin in the trunk of an olive tree in a nearby ravine as a tribute to the shrine of their hometown. The Chapel of St. Joseph, erected in 1856, followed this first shrine before being replaced by the Basilica, which began construction in 1858. The basilica is built in a neo-Byzantine style, with a dome decorated with a cross and flanked by a minaret-shaped campanile housing eleven bells. Its soberly decorated facade is crowned by a frieze of blue and white ceramic. Inside, in Hispano-Moorish style, the walls are covered withex-votos offered by believers of all confessions coming from Algeria, from all over Africa and elsewhere in gratitude to the Virgin Mary. Written in French, Latin, Arabic, Tifinah, Italian, Spanish, English and Russian, the first ones date from the origins of the basilica, others are very recent. Among them, you will notice that of Father Charles de Foucauld, that of the astronaut Frank Borman who visited the sanctuary in 1970 and on which is inscribed a word from Genesis pronounced in space in 1968 and those of the sailors thanking the Virgin for not having abandoned them during the storms.
In the apse, with its walls decorated with frescoes recounting the lives of Saint Augustine and Saint Monica, his mother, stands the statue of Our Lady of Africa, given to Bishop Dupuch in 1838 by the young girls of the Sacred Heart boarding school in Lyon. The color of its bronze, altered by time, has earned the statue the name of the Black Virgin. The pedestal decorated with blue ceramics was restored by the master Mohamed Boumehdi who also made the ceramics placed to the right of the heart in tribute to the White Fathers of Tizi Ouzou murdered in 1994. Nearby, the names of the monks of Tibhirine murdered in 1996 are also inscribed.
The astonishing inscriptions in French, Arabic and Kabyle and the prayer "Our Lady of Africa, pray for us and for the Muslims" reveal the fraternal and intercultural dimension of the place. Model ships are hung in homage to the sailors who sank at sea. The organ, beautifully decorated, was chosen by Camille Saint-Saëns. Damaged by sea winds and earthquakes, the basilica was the object of important restoration work directed by the architect Xavier David, who was responsible for the renovation of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde in Marseille. Organ concerts are regularly given there.
On the esplanade, the statue of Cardinal Lavigerie, the work of J. Vezien, erected in 1925 and restored in 2019.
The ceramics placed to the right of the choir in homage to the nineteen Catholic religious murdered in the 1990s (including the four White Fathers of Tizi Ouzou in 1994, Pierre Claverie, bishop of Oran, and the monks of Tibhirine in 1996) were placed there following their beatification in December 2018.
Very nice view of the northern districts of the city; the Christian and Jewish cemeteries (where Roger Hanin is buried since 2015), the Omar Hamadi stadium (ex-Saint-Eugene) and the sea from the square of the basilica.
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Open every day from 11am to 12.30pm and from 3pm to 5.30pm, daily mass at 6pm.