St. Anne Basilica, Brazzaville

Featured Image Source: Giovanni Di lorio, Under Creative Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Basilique_-_fa%C3%A7ade_principale.jpg

The St. Anne Basilica is one of the most impressive pieces of architecture within the city of Brazzaville. The Basilica sits about 400 meters away from the main station of the city and sits on the corner of the Avenue de L’Indépendance and the Ave de la Paix. The building sits next to a stadium and a small park owned by the Basilica. The building is best known for its pointed arches and green roof. It is one of the main Catholic places of worship within the city.

The building can be seen as a fusion of traditional Congolese Architecture and European Gothic Architecture. Though the Gothic Architecture is not traditional and has a modernist twist it still follows the rules for Gothic church architecture. The floor plan is a traditional Latin cross meaning that the central nave is longer than the shorter transept which sits towards the pulpit, (source).

The building was designed by French architect Roger Lelièver (known as Ernell) and construction was begun in 1943 and finished in 2011. The building took more than 60 years because construction was stopped during civil unrest and lack of resource and the church was damaged during the civil war in the 1990’s. For a long time, the church’s roof and main clock tower remained unfished. The clock in the main tower was finally installed in 2011, (source).

Basilique_Sainte-Anne_du_Congo,_Brazzaville
Source: Blandaucongo, Under Creative Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Basilique_Sainte-Anne_du_Congo,_Brazzaville.jpg

The building is 85 meters long and the transept is 45 meters long. The building is 22 meters wide and the tower is 83 meters long. Brazzaville is a relatively flat city meaning that the church is visible from far and wide. The buildings main constructional material is red brick and stone. The roof is tiled with green ceramic tiles, (source).

One enters the building via the large extremely pointed arched door. This pointed arch is inspired by spearheads of the Zande culture of Southern Congo, (source&source). The entrance is set back slightly in the wall of the building. The entrance is also denoted by a brighter red cloured brick that makes the entrance stand out. The door is a large double door made of metal with various illustrations on it. Above the metal door is a large stained glass window set in a hatched metal frame, (source).

Once one has entered the museum the real magnificence of the building is revealed. The main nave has 8 brick pointed arches that hold up the roof. These arches are not clad and thus keep their raw bricks. These arches, unlike more traditional Gothic churches, jut out on the side rather than on the outside of the building. These arches become thinner towards the top of the roof, giving the building’s interior a sweeping silhouette and a sense of depth. At the top of the ceiling, there is a thin skylight along the length of the nave. To create this skylight the green tiles were replaced with glass tiles to allow light to flow in, (source).

The end of the nave and transept are curved with large windows allowing in light. These two have similarly pointed arches. Between the brick arches, the walls are stuccoed in a white-yellowish colour making the arches more prominent.

If one walks past the pulpit we can exit the building via a similar metal door, though the form is more pointed. If we look back at the basilica we can see the intricate relationship between the pointed arches, buttresses and windows. From this angle, we can also see the thickness of the walls. Within each arch, the wall is slanting towards the top ending in a window. The arches are constructed of natural stone. An interesting detail can be seen in the joint between the buttress and outer wall. A small indent is made above the buttress making them look like two different systems.

The tower sits on a square base and has four pointed arches. These pointed arches make the tower into an 8 sided pyramid. At the top of the tower, there is a simple cross.

The building brings together modernist architecture, traditional Gothic design and Congolese symbolism and creates a space for the cities worshipers. The building is light and has a cave-like quality making the skylight all the more impressive. It is an important place of worship for the Catholics of Brazzaville and the Republic of Congo.


Sources

Lonely planet. (n.d.). Basilique Sainte-Anne. Retrieved May 30, 2018
Petit fute. (n.d.). BASILIQUE SAINTE-ANNE-DU-CONGO. Retrieved May 30, 2018
The Globe Holidays Project. (n.d.). Basilica of St. Anne. Retrieved May 30, 2018
Wikipedia. (n.d.). Basilica of St. Anne of Congo Brazzaville. Retrieved May 30, 2018
Wikipedia. (n.d.). Church. Retrieved May 30, 2018
Wikipedia. (n.d.). Zande people. Retrieved May 30, 2018

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