With wide eyes looking out from a serene art-deco concrete and soapstone face, Cristo Redentor stares out across the vast urban sprawl that is Rio de Janeiro. The statue faces Sugarloaf Mountain and Guanabara Bay, keeping an eye on the golden sands of Copacabana and Ipanema beaches too.
The 30-metre tall statue of Christ the Redeemer stands at the top of Corcovado Mountain, overlooking Rio de Janeiro. Its arms spread out, symbolically embracing the whole world; this statue of Jesus is the 5th largest of its kind in the world. Otherwise known as Christ the Redeemer, this symbolic icon is considered one of the new wonders of the world, with the location’s panoramic views a breathtaking sight for the two million people making the trip up the statue each year.
The history of Cristo Redentor
The idea of building a religious monument was first suggested in the 1850s to Princess Isabel of Spain by a Catholic priest, Father Pedro Maria Boss. It did not get far. The statue was again proposed in the early twentieth century, with several designs put forth by leading craftsman. The open-armed statue of Jesus was chosen in 1922 to represent universal peace, and French-Polish sculptor Paul Londowski began his creation in 1922. At the princely sum of US $250,000, the Londowski finally completed the statue in 1931.
The statue today
In 2006, a chapel dedicated to the patron saint of Brazil – Nossa Senhora Aparecida or “Our Lady of the Apparition” was built, sitting just under the towering statue.
Throughout the years, the statue has been the target of both nature and humans. In 2008, a bolt of lightning struck Cristo Redento and the statue’s head, fingers and eyebrows were damaged. Soapstone from the quarry where the original material was sourced was used to repair the statue to its former glory. Strong eroding winds also calls for constant maintenance work on the site. In 2010, house painter Paulo Souza dos Santos, took his trade too far when he spray-painted graffiti on the statue’s head and right arm. He was arrested and convicted with his delinquent art considered a ‘crime against the nation.’
The statue has featured in several films including Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious and numerous video games. It was controversially blown up in the disaster movie, 2012.