This article explores the conception, construction, and consecration of Dakar's cathedral of the Souvenir Africain between 1910 and 1936 and charts the evolution of the project in the context of religious and political “tensions of empire” in Senegal and in France. The Catholic mission of Senegambia billed the project as a patriotic memorial to the French who had died colonizing Africa and, after World War I, to all the African and French troops who had died fighting for France in Europe. The cathedral formed part of the missionaries' sustained and unsuccessful effort to convince the colonial administration of the value of their Catholic “civilizing mission.” The lavish consecration in 1936 appeared to demonstrate that the Catholic mission and the colonial administration were close allies, but it in fact obscured their fundamentally different agendas, reflecting instead a metropolitan-based ideal of a “plus grande France.” The Souvenir Africain was thus an ambiguous monument that represented two uneasy pairings: that of the Catholic Church and the colonial state, and that of French colonialists and the Africans they ruled.

You do not currently have access to this content.