The Corcovado Mountain statue representing Jesus with His arms spread wide is one of the best-known symbols of Rio de Janeiro. You can’t see a collection of pictures that are representative to the city and not run into this piece of art. Most tourists see the statue as a must-visit place in Rio, and the lines of people waiting to buy a ticket are often quite long. Before getting there, here are the main things you need to know about the statue of Jesus:
The statue is called Christ the Redeemer or Cristo Redentor in Portuguese. However, most people know it as the statue of Jesus on the Corcovado Mountain.
An international team of artists
The statue has been created by French sculptor Paul Landowski, and built by the Brazilian engineer Heitor da Silva Costa, collaborating with French engineer Albert Caquot. The face of the statue was created by Romanian sculptor Gheorghe Leonida. The latter studied fine arts in Romania and Italy and his work on the statue made him famous.
The statue was constructed between 1922 and 1931, with completion date October 12, 1931. The statue is 30 m or 98 ft tall, and is sitting on an 8 m or 26 ft pedestal. The arms of the statue stretch 28 m or 92 ft wide. The weight of the statue is 635 metric tons and is made of reinforced concrete and soapstone, a medium used for carving for thousands of years.
Its location makes it very visible
Christ the Redeemer is not a very large statue. For instance, the Statue of Liberty has a height of 93 m including its pedestal, compared to the statue of Jesus, which has a 38 m height including pedestal. However, the location makes the statue easy to see from various places in the city. The peak of the Corcovado Mountain where the statue was constructed is 700 m high or 2300 ft. The mountain, or better said, hill, is located in the Tijuca Forest National Park overlooking the city of Rio.
Listed as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World
The New Seven Wonders of the World was a campaign taking place between 2000 and 2007. A selection of 200 monuments was used to organize a popularity poll. There was a huge campaign in Brazil encouraging people to vote for the statue, called Vote no Cristo, supported by telecommunication operators. These companies allowed voters to make free telephone calls and send SMS messages without any charge to support the cultural icon of Rio de Janeiro. Here’s an image of the intensive campaign supporting the statue:
“One morning in June, Rio de Janeiro residents awoke to a beeping text message on their cell phones: “Press 4916 and vote for Christ. It’s free!” The same pitch had been popping up all over the city since late January—flashing across an electronic screen every time city-dwellers swiped their transit cards on city buses and echoing on TV infomercials that featured a reality-show celebrity posing next to the city’s trademark Christ the Redeemer statue.”
— Elizabeth Dwoskin, Newsweek
The birth of an idea
The first to consider the idea of placing a Christian monument on the Corcovado Mountain was a Vincentian priest, Pedro Maria Boss, who in the mid-1850s thought of a way to honor Princess Isabel, princess regent of Brazil and daughter of Emperor Pedro II. The project lacked support and was not completed. The separation of church and state taking place when Brazil became a republic in 1889 did not contribute to making this dream come true either. However, in 1920, an organization called The Catholic Circle of Rio advocated for the construction of the statue and collected numerous donations from Brazilian Catholics. Their purpose was to counteract the feeling of Godlessness in the Brazilian society at that time. The chosen design, representing Jesus holding his arms open, was meant to represent peace and the fact that divinity is watching over us.
The statue is already decades old, and time has set its mark on it. The biggest issues affecting the statue were lighting struck during violent thunderstorms, as it happened in February 2008 and January 2014. Some parts of the statue were affected, including fingers, head, and eyebrows. As a result, a large restoration campaign of the statue started in 2010. Experts cleaned the statue, restored iron in the internal structure, replaced the soapstone on the exterior, and applied a waterproof solution all over the surface. Fungi and other microorganism living on the surface of the statue were removed, and when the restored statue was unveiled, it was illuminated in green and yellow to support the national football team playing in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. In order to maintain the same appearance of the statue, more than 100 people worked in the restoration, many of them looking for pieces of stone of the same color, taken from the same quarry as the original statue. Lately, the original color is no longer available and replacement stones of a darker hue need to be used.
Resembling statues are found throughout the world, and the best-known include Cristo del Otero in Palencia, Spain (21 m), Cerro del Cubilete in Guanajuato, Mexico, inspired by Christ the Redeemer (23 m), Christ Blessing in Manado, North Sulawesi, Indonesia (30 m), Christ the King in Świebodzin, Poland (33 m), and Cristo del Pacífico in Lima, Peru, constructed in 2011 (37 m).
If you ever get to Rio and want to visit the statue Christ the Redeemer, your starting point will be the Corcovado Train Station, located on Cosme Velho Street. Tourists need to buy tickets for the train, which departs every 20 minutes and takes you to the destination in the same amount of time. Places you can view from the Corcovado Mountain include the famous Copacabana and Ipanema Beaches, and tourists also like taking photos under the statue’s outstretched arms. The location is wheelchair accessible and clients can choose between an alternative date and a refund in case of bad weather.
Whether you are a devout Christian or not, the statue Christ the Redeemer is worth seeing – it is not only a religious site, but also a cultural landmark of Rio.