The concept of the basilica dates back to 1846 when two girls from Lyon placed a statue of Virgin Mary in the trunk of an olive tree as a tribute to their hometown sanctuary. The Saint-Joseph Chapel is the first incarnation of the basilica, for which construction started in 1858 and ended in 1872, when it was blessed by Monseigneur Lavigerie. Inspired by roman, byzantine and mozarab styles, Notre Dame D'Afrique was beautifully restored after the Boumerdès earthquake of 2003.
Behind the statue of the Virgin, you will notice ceramics by the famous Mohamed Boumehdi. You may also admire the fresco behind the choir which evokes the Christian history of Northern Africa. A sentence can be read on the apse wall, written in French, Arabic and Berber: “Our Lady of Africa, pray for us and for the Muslims.” And this is fact: for more than 150 years, Christians and Muslims come for protection to the Lady of Africa.
From the basilica, the view is magnificent onto the sea but also onto the Saint-Eugène cemetery which three distinct sections – Islamic, Christian and Jewish – are all especially well preserved. After your visit of the basilica, walk through the alleys of the cemetery: the tombstones are a digest of the history of Algeria during the French period, from 1830 to 1962.
Basilique Notre-Dame d'Afrique
Rue de Zighara