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This Small African Town Has a Replica of St. Peter's Basilica

The intersection of money, power, and questionable taste has given rise to many anomalous architectural replicas. In the U.S. alone there's a wannabe White House and at least ten knock-off Versailles; the list goes on and on. This week, though, Gizmodo turned up one that just might take the cake as far as hubris goes: a nearly full-scale replica of the Vatican's St. Peter's Basilica nestled in the small Ivory Coast town of Yanoussoukro.

Commissioned in the mid-'80s by then-president Félix Houphouët-Boigny, the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro grew from the decision to turn Yamoussoukro into the new capital of Côte d'Ivoire, something to show for the two decades of economic boom the country had seen after gaining independence from France in 1960. French-Lebanese architect Pierre Fakhoury was tapped to model the cathedral directly on the seat of the Catholic church, but in its original scope, the project aimed to out-do the Vatican in a terms of sheer opulence.

Take, for example, the 100-pound gold cross planned for the site, or the massive stained glass depicting Christ palling around with Houphouët-Boigny, neither of which, one imagines, are exactly the kind of emulation the Catholic leadership wanted to promote. The government copped to the Vatican's request that the dome be slightly shorter than St. Peter's own, and eventually got it consecrated, with the stipulation that a hospital be raised nearby, for which only the foundation was laid.

The basilica was finished in 1990, after it had racked up a price $300M, by which time the economic boom that had brought it on had long since sputtered out. Today, it reportedly hosts a small congregation a few hundred strong, though it can hold up to 7,000.

· How a Giant Replica of the Vatican Ended Up In a Small African City [Gizmodo]