Religions

On Reunion Island, people pray to Christ, Allah, Shiva, saints and other deities

culture

A kaleidoscope of denominations and religions

Religious beliefs coexist in harmony in this land of ethnic mixing, which gives the place an exceptional cultural and spiritual wealth. Religious festivals and traditions are celebrated all year round: firewalking, Dipavali (festival of light), Chinese New Year, Festival of Guan Di, Cavadee, "Fêt Caf" on 20 December, Liberté Métisse (abolition of slavery)...
We share with you this truly unique privilege, as Reunion Island offers all the variety and depth of its cultures and its spirituality.
Saint-Denis, Saint-Paul, Saint-Pierre, Saint-Gilles, Saint-Joseph, Sainte-Anne, Sainte-Rose ... most towns’ names testify to the presence of Catholicism on the island. Churches are crowded every Sunday and for every holiday in the Catholic calendar.
Along the roads, small altars painted red catch visitors’ attention. They are dedicated to a saint who’s little known outside Reunion: Saint-Expédit. He’s credited with the power to resolve the most delicate matters as quickly as his name suggests!
Some churches are well worth a look: that of Sainte-Anne with its semi-"baroque" architecture, or maybe Notre-Dame des Laves in Sainte Rose, surrounded by lava from the 1977 eruption. At the heart of the little village of Salazie is ... a cathedral. And in the heights of Saint-Gilles, the pointed chapel, built by Madame Desbassyns, is so elegant, and helps prolong your visit to the Musée de Villèle (museum).
Fantastic religious tolerance
The mixing of populations is what gives Reunion Island its diversity of religious faiths. You’ll doubtless be surprised to find a church next to a Hindu temple or hear the call of the muezzin break the silent atmosphere cradled by the incense rising from a Chinese pagoda next to the mosque.
Some Tamil temples and various "chapels" are resplendent with a whole spectrum of colours. Hinduism arrived with workers from southern India in the mid-nineteenth century.
Minarets make their mark in Saint-Denis, Saint-Pierre and Saint-Louis. The mosque of Saint-Denis, built in 1905 by the Indo-Muslim community, is the oldest in France. Outside prayer times, these establishments can be visited.
Pagodas allow Chinese islanders, often from the Canton region, to practise the cult of their ancestors, while having sometimes embraced the catholic religion.
Arising from the beliefs of African and Malagasy slaves, a ritual background still remains, embodied by the rhythm of maloya. In the privacy of their shacks, many families still perform the "Malagasy service" to honour their ancestors.