The Basilica commonly known as the Uganda Martyrs Catholic Shrine is a circular church of 42 meter diameter inspired by the looks of an African traditional hut, and the first of its kind in Africa.
It has twenty two pillars made of seamless steel, each representing a Catholic Martyr. A dome of steel and double-glazed stained glass installed with thermal insulation, standing at nine meters high from the roof.
The Uganda Martyrs Basilica has a seating capacity of approximately 1000 people.
The dream of constructing the current Shrine was conceived by Emmanuel Cardinal Nsubuga, then Archbishop of Kampala Archdiocese (1967), to match the glory of the Uganda Martyrs.
Cardinal Nsubuga used a raffia-bag (ekikapu in the local language) to fundraise for the construction of the Shrine. He visited USA, German, Switzerland and Rome (Italy).
While in Rome, his request to Pope Paul VI to bless the raffia-bags got the project a generous donation of Ush 140, 000 (approximately $20,000 at the time) from the Holy Father.
Pope Paul VI also commissioned the Vatican to contribute Ush35, 000 (about $5,000) towards the starting of the project, and another Ush285, 600 (about $40,000) later on.
The overwhelmingly happy cardinal invited the Holy Father to lay the foundation stone of the new Shrine at Namugongo, an invitation the Pope honored later that year when he visited Uganda.
The architectural design of the Shrine was developed by Dr. Justus Danhinden, an architect of a German origin on the advice of Cardinal Nsubuga.
Actual construction of this Shrine began in 1967 by ROKO Construction, a company owned by two Swedish brothers, ROHRER (an architect) and KOEHLER (an accountant).
The Shrine was completed nine years later and officially opened by His Eminence Sergio Cardinal Pignedoli on the 3rd of June 1975.
On the 7th of February 1993, Pope John Paul II declared this Shrine a Minor Basilica while on his pastoral visit and pilgrimage to Uganda.