Greetings from
the Rector

Msgr. Walter R. Rossi welcomes you to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception's worldwide web site... More

Stay In Touch
The Shrine Prayer Guild
Online Memorial Registry
En Español
Listen to the Basilica Choir Discography
The Organs at the National Shrine
Employment Opportunities
Volunteer Opportunities
Book a Tour

 Home > Crypt Church

Our Mother of Africa

Mary's role in the drama of salvation history is uniquely embodied in the African-American experience and in Our Mother of Africa Chapel. The marble inlay at the threshold of the chapel shows the "Henrietta Marie," a 17th-century slave ship discovered in 1972 off the coast of Key West. The mahogany vault ceiling is reminiscent of the hulls of sailing vessels.

The chapel is best characterized by the term "sacred conversation," the integration of sacred persons into a single scene. The bronze Mother and Son statue strides towards the narrative bas relief, created by Ed Dwight, which chronicles the African-American odyssey. At the relief's far end, the mother and father "step into" the spectator's space, hands lifted to the crucifix above the altar, their children looking to the Mother and Son. The crucifix is the work of Juvenal Kaliki and Jeffrey Brosk. Kaliki's black ebony Christ is executed in a carving tradition that dates back five centuries in his Entebene tribe.

Brosk's hand-oiled and carved cherry cross retains the natural curves of the tree and the bark's irregular surface.

The chapel is the gift of African-American Catholics, under the leadership of the Black Bishops of the United States and the National Black Catholic Congress (NBCC). James Cardinal Hickey dedicated the chapel Aug. 30, 1997.