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Published on Nov 14, 2013 in Brazil, Featured Articles, News

The Origin of Brazil’s Christ the Redeemer Statue

82f250b28ea25fef8dc9e68bd956840bIf you’ve ever been to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, or seen any tourist advertising for Brazil, then you’ve probably seen the Christ the Redeemer statue. This colossal statue of Jesus Christ stands 98 feet tall, with outstretched arms spanning 92 feet, on top of the 2310 foot high Mount Corcovado, making it visible from anywhere in Rio de Janeiro. The statue appears taller than it’s nearly ten story height, as it sits on a 26 foot tall pedestal base which gives it even more visual height on its mountaintop summit. At 93 meters (98 feet), Christ the Redeemer is just 2 meters shorter than the Statue of Liberty. In 2007 it was named one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. As a point of trivia, the statue’s right arm points to Ipanema Beach while its left arm points to Maracana, the world’s largest soccer stadium. Rather than being simply a symbol of Brazil’s Catholicism, Christ the Redeemer was meant to be a worldwide symbol of peace.
I’ve visited the Christ the Redeemer statue a number of times during some due diligence assignments that my partner Dave Dodge and I have had in Rio. The statue itself is every bit as impressive as you might expect. We were able to drive to the statue by going through the Tijuca Forest National Park on Mount Corcovado, which lies just behind the statue. It’s a very scenic route and, if you have the time, worth the slightly longer time it would take you to get to Christ the Redeemer.
The statue itself is made of reinforced concrete and is covered with a mosaic of thousands of triangular soapstone tiles, and is the largest Art-Deco style sculpture in the world. It was created by a local designer. However, a French sculptor was commissioned to sculpt Christ the Redeemer. When the statue is lit at night it appears to be levitating, as none of the mountain it rests on is visible. To visit the statue, other than by car through the Tijuca Forest National Park, one can go on a train to a point near the mountain summit, and then take an elevator, escalator, or walk the 222 steps up to the base of the statue.
The idea for a religious statue atop Mount Corcovado was first suggested in the 1850s by Pedro Maria Boss, a Catholic priest. However, nothing came from his proposal for nearly seventy years. Then, in 1921, the Roman Catholic archdiocese proposed the Christ the Redeemer statue. The government gave permission for its construction the following year.
The original design for a statue atop Mount Corcovado was different than what was finally constructed. Originally this statue was to be a figure of Christ holding a cross in his right hand and the world in his left. However, after some discussion, that design was later changed to the statue we see today. The Catholic Church raised $250,000, through private donations, for the statue’s construction, which began in 1926. The statue was completed in 1931.
Over time the statue has been struck by lightning, even though lightning rods are installed. In 2008, for example, a violent lightning storm damaged the statue’s fingers, which later had to be restored. Strong winds on the summit of Mount Corcovado also necessitate constant maintenance.
Today, when someone thinks of Brazil, they’re likely to first conjure an image of Christ the Redeemer, which continues to be the enduring symbol for both Rio de Janeiro and Brazil.
Alan Refkin
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