The magnificent Christ the Redeemer Statue is a monumental sculpture depicting Jesus Christ. It towers 2,300 feet over the community of Rio de Janeiro atop the Corcovado Mountain within the Tijuca Forest National Park.
This spectacular Art Deco styled statue stands 98 feet tall, and is placed on top of a 26-foot pedestal, which contains a chapel. The statue’s welcoming outstretched arms span 92-feet wide in a gesture that envelops all in the community below.
This iconic piece is considered one of the 7 new wonders of the world, and is a source of great pride for the residents of Rio de Janeiro and the country of Brazil. It has been a cherished destination for Popes, Presidents, celebrities, pilgrims, and tourists who cannot help but be spiritually awed by the ambiance of this majestic icon.
The Dream’s Conception
The seeds for the Christ the Redeemer Statue were set in the mid-1850s, when a priest named Pedro Maria Boss expressed a desire to erect a large religious monument atop the Corcovado Mountain. His request for funding was denied by Princess Isabela in 1889 due to a desire to maintain a separation of church and state.
A second proposal was set forth in 1920 by the Catholic Circle of Rio. They organized a week-long event called Semana do Monumento, or Monument Week to gather donations for the project, which were for the most part bestowed from Catholic citizens throughout Brazil.
Design and Construction
The Christ the Redeemer statue was designed by an international team of artisans. The original design came from a local engineer named Heitor da Silva Costa. Polish-French sculptor Paul Landowski created the sculpture, and the engaging serene face was created by Romanian sculptor Gheorghe Leonida. The team was headed by Landowski.
A group of technicians and engineers studied Landowski’s submissions and decided that reinforced concrete was the most suitable medium for the statue, and the final design was made by French artist Albert Caquot. They decided to coat the exterior of the statue with soapstone because of its ease of use and durability.
Construction of the statue finally began in 1922, and after nine years and the equivalent of $250,000 US dollars, finished the masterpiece in 1931. After 76 years from the dream’s conception, the statue was officially opened October 12, 1931.
The chapel below the statue was consecrated in October of 2006 as part of the statue’s 75th year celebration, in the name of Brazil’s patron saint, Nossa Senhora Aparecida, or “Our Lady of the Apparition.” Many weddings and baptisms are conducted in the chapel.
The statue and chapel are accessed by a train that travels a winding path up the steep mountain of Corcovado on the rear side of the statue.
Maintenance and Restorations
Restoration work on the statue was conducted in 1990 through an agreement between the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro, Rede Globo media company, Shell Oil Company of Brazil, IBAMA environment regulators, the city government of Rio de Janeiro, and the National Heritage Secretariat SPHAN.
The Christ the Redeemer statue has been damaged by lightning strikes twice, first in February 2008, which wrought damage to the head, eyebrows, and fingers, and again in January 2014, which dislodged a finger on the right hand. The restorations were financed by the State of Rio de Janeiro.
The statue was vandalized with graffiti in April of 2010. Rio de Janeiro’s Mayor Eduardo Paes declared the act “a crime against the nation” and promised to jail the vandals offering a reward of $10,000 for information leading to an arrest. Eventually, a house painter was arrested for the crime.
The glorious statue of Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer is one of the most famous sculptures in the world, and is considered one of the new 7 wonders of the world. Its history is rich with earnest devoted effort, from the conception of the dream until today’s determined struggles to maintain its magnificent luster. This marvelous statue is a testament to man’s determination and the inspirational power of art.