The biggest Buddhist temple in Europe was officially opened yesterday in Bussy-Saint-Georges (Seine-et-Marne).

The temple, about 30km from Paris, will be open to the public from 1 July. It is expected to receive visitors from all over Europe.

The Taiwanese pagoda measures 7000 metres squared and is divided into various areas. There is a prayer hall that can hold 400 people, over thirty bedrooms reserved for nuns and a “cultural exchange” space with an exhibition room, classrooms, a tea room and library.

“We have been waiting for a project like this for 20 years,” says Miaoda, a representative of the Fo Guang Shan association (a branch of Buddha’s Light International Association).

The new temple offers wonderful opportunities for the Fo Guang Shan association, which is currently very limited by the size of its centre in Vitry-sur-Seine, in Val-de-Marne. Every week they receive over 300 people and the temple is now too small.

French architect Frederic Rolland and Kris Yao, an architect from Taiwan, designed the pagoda. It is made mainly of wood and concrete and is not ostentatious at all but minimalist in style.

An sculpture of Buddha weighing eight tons and measuring 5 metres high sits in the prayer hall. It is made of white jade from Burma and was decorated in Taiwan.

The Buddhist temple is part of a cultural and religious project in area that includes plans for another pagoda, a synagogue, a mosque and an Armenian cultural centre by the end of 2013.

The buildings for this project for a cultural and religious district, launched in 2004, are entirely financed by the religious and cultural communities concerned.

“We need a building that can welcome many people, this temple will be able to welcome 1,100, and so we are very happy,” said Miaoda. She affirms that a project like this has been “wanted in France for 20 years”.