The towering statue of Jesus Christ, Christ the Redeemer with arms outstretched, is one of the world’s best-known sculptures and a must-see for anyone visiting Rio de Janeiro.
The idea of a statue on Mount Corcovado was first conceived in 1850, by the Catholic priest Pedro Maria Boss. He wanted a Christian monument in honor of the Empire of Brazil’s then-regent and heiress presumptive, Princess Isabel. When the country became a republic in 1889, the idea was abandoned for a time.
It resurfaced in 1920, with the help of the Catholic Circle of Rio. Christ the Redeemer was designed by French sculptor Paul Landowski, with help from Brazilian engineer Heitor da Silva Costa. Romanian sculptor Gheorghe Leonida took on the delicate work of carving the statue’s face. It was finished in 1931.
The statue is 98 feet tall and the arms stretch 92 feet wide. Its location at the peak of Mount Corcovado means Christ the Redeemer overlooks the city, arms stretched out in a gesture of peace. In 2006, a chapel at the statue’s base was opened, allowing visitors to marry or baptize their children there.
The structure of the statue is created with reinforced concrete, and soapstone forms the outer, carved layer. The entire monument weighs a whopping 700 tons.
The height of Christ the Redeemer has made it a frequent target for lightning strikes. Occasionally, the lightning damages the sculpture, requiring restoration projects. Lightning rods embedded in the statue’s head and arms seek to minimize the damage. The original pale soapstone that made up the statue is no longer available in large quantities, so occasionally repairs are carried out using darker stone.
The statue has become a symbol of the Christian faith around the world, and is also a cultural icon in Rio de Janeiro and Brazil. When the country hosted the FIFA World Cup in 2010, the plain white lights that illuminate Christ the Redeemer each night were replaced by the colors of Brazil’s flag.
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