Algiers: Our Lady of Africa

The basilica of Our Lady of Africa (Notre-Dame d'Afrique) in Algiers, is a place of worship popular among both Catholics and Muslims. Also known as Lalla Meriem or Madame l'Afrique, it is on the north side of Algiers, on a 124 m (407 ft) cliff overlooking the Bay of Algiers. It can be considered to be the counter-piece to the church of Notre-Dame de la Garde on the other side of the Mediterranean, in Marseille.

A message of love in a Muslim country

On the heights of Algiers, in the basilica of Our Lady of Africa, on the apse above the main altar, is this inscription:

"Our Lady of Africa, pray for us and for Muslims."

This Marian prayer has never been erased. Both Muslims and Christians come here to pray to Mary and offer her flowers.

There is also a sentence by Saint Augustine (Algerian, d. 430), written in French, Arabic and Kabyle:

"Brotherly love comes from God, and is God himself."

This is a very strong statement, in a country where some kill in the name of Allah.

The following story explains that there is a special connection between Algiers and the city of Lyons in France:

The first shrine, in 1846, was a small grotto with a statue of "Our Lady of the Ravine," quickly filled with ex votos. In 1857 there was a temporary church, with a beautiful Black Madonna – a gift from the Ladies of the Sacred Heart of Lyons in May 1840 to the first bishop of Algiers.

Bishop Charles Lavigerie, declining an appointment of Archbishop of Lyons, requested instead an appointment to the see of Algiers, where he oversaw the construction of this important basilica, inaugurated in 1872. He also founded the order of priests called the White Fathers, and similar orders of brothers and nuns.

We should also mention that the statue of the Archangel Saint Michael that dominates Lyons has a silver replica in a chapel of the Algerian basilica, a gift from some

Source: "Alger de 1830 à 1962" by Guy Tudury éd. Lacour Collection Rediviva, 1994.