Renovation of West Africa’s Oldest Cathedral Inspires Understanding, Collaboration: Bishop

The renovated Saint-Louis Cathedral in Senegal. It is known to be the oldest church building in West Africa.

The process of renovating Saint Louis Cathedral of Senegal’s Diocese of Saint Louis that has taken some 15 years has been described as a source of inspiration for the values of “understanding, collaboration, unity” among the people of God in the West African nation.

Speaking during the handing over of the 192-year-old renovated Cathedral, the Bishop of Saint-Louis Diocese also acknowledged with appreciation those who facilitated its construction.

“The renovation of our Cathedral inspires understanding, collaboration, unity among Senegalese and the desire for us to work together for the growth of the Church,” Bishop Ernest Sambou said Thursday, October 8.

Bishop Sambou added, “The renovation of this Church was a very long process that started in 2005. We are very happy and we thank God that our Church is once again open for worship.”


He acknowledged those who were involved in the construction of the Cathedral and urged the people of God under his jurisdiction to make good use of the renovated Cathedral saying, “Those who were there before us have done what they could do. Today, they are no longer present but we have the duty to maintain and ensure the structures they sacrificed and build are in a good state.”

“Some of the buildings they constructed are now old and it is now up to us to be united to see how to renovate these structures which are part of the history of Saint-Louis Diocese,” the 72-year-old Senegalese Prelate further said.

Consecrated and opened to the public in 1828, Saint-Louis Cathedral, which is a heritage of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is known to be the oldest church building in West Africa. With the passage of time, the structure weakened, posing a threat to worshippers and local residents.

The renovation works were initiated in 2005 after the roof of the Cathedral caved in. The works however stalled and were only resumed in 2018.

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The Diocese of Saint-Louis partnered with the Senegalese government and the French Development Agency (AFD) to renovate the Cathedral at a cost of about 1 billion FCFA (US$1,799,135.00).

Also speaking at the handing over of the renovated Cathedral October 8, Senegal’s Minister of Culture and Communication, Abdoulaye Diop expressed his appreciation for the dynamic cooperation between the government and the Catholic Church in Senegal that aided the renovation of the Saint-Louis Cathedral, which was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.

“The renovation of the Saint-Louis Cathedral is sufficient proof that Senegal is a country of tolerance, where different religions and beliefs coexist, a country where each individual can practice his or her religion as he or she wishes,” said Minister Diop.


He added, “Today, I am happy to hand over the keys of this historic building very dear to UNESCO and the 300-year-old city of Saint-Louis.”

On his part, the Director-General of Senegal’s Agency for the Promotion of Investment and Public Works (APIX), Mountaga Sy said, “The rehabilitation of Saint-Louis Cathedral has made it possible to restore the heritage, the socio-cultural and economic status of the building.”

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.