Christ the Redeemer4

An Art Deco masterpiece (and the largest Art Deco statue in the world), this massive statue overlooking the Brazilian coastal city of Rio de Janeiro was created following a campaign by the nation's Catholic Church.

Concerned over where society was heading, in 1921 the Catholic Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro proposed a statue be built overlooking the city ostensibly as a reminder of their faith (there had been an earlier proposal for a Christian monument on Mt Corcovado - in the 1850s, priest Pierre-Marie Boss had suggested one be built in honour of Isabel, the Princess Regent of Brazil and the daughter of Emperor Pedro II, but it was never approved).

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PICTURES: Top - Nico Kaiser/Flickr (licensed under CC BY 2.0)); Right - Aerial view of the statue (Gustavo Facci/Flickr (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0;)); Below - Mariordo Wikimedia Commons (licensed under CC BY 3.0).

The idea was revived in the 1920s by the Catholic Church who proposed the building of the statue - visible from anywhere in the city - to mark the upcoming centennial of Brazil's independence from Portugal. In 1922, more than 20,000 women petitioned the Brazilian President Epitácio Pessoa to permit the construction of the monument - which he subsequently granted.

Several locations were considered including Santo Antonio Hill and Mt Sugar Loaf before the Corcovado Mount (so named apparently because it looks like a hunched back, 'corcova' in Portuguese) was settled upon.

A contest was held for the design in 1921 - three projects were presented but the winner was Brazilian civil engineer Heitor da Silva Costa who put forward the idea of a statue of Jesus with a cross in one hand and a globe in the other in His hands (a concept which he later amended, working with artist Carlos Oswald, to depict the figure of Christ with arms spread wide in a gesture symbolic of the cross; the moment of the redemption of mankind).

The foundation stone of the base was laid on 4th April, 1922 - 100 years since Brazil’s independence from Portugal - although construction didn't properly start until 1926.

The Catholic Church, meanwhile, set about fundraising, including holding a "Monument's Week" in September, 1923 (the statue, which was funded entirely through donations, would apparently eventually cost the equivalent of $US250,000).

Da Silva Costa, meanwhile, had headed to Europe where he met with French engineer Albert Caquot, a specialist in working in reinforced concrete, and French-Polish art deco sculptor Paul Landowski to turn his idea into reality. Others involved in the creation of the monument included Brazilian engineers Heitor Levy and Pedro Fernandes Viana.

The statue, which weighs 635 metric tonnes, was made of reinforced concrete clad in a mosaic made up of small triangular soapstone tiles - the idea of using a mosaic came to Da Silva Costa while he was walking along the Champs Elysees in Paris and saw a fountain covered in mosaic tiles.

The materials were all transported to the summit via a railway which had been running since the 1880s. While most of it was constructed in Brazil, Landowkis, who never saw the finished product, sculpted the head and hands in his Paris studio (Romanian sculptor Gheorghe Leonida sculpted the face) and transported in parts to Rio where they were assembled.

The completed statue stands 38 metres high (including its pedestal), the equivalent of a 13 storey building, and sits atop the 710 metre high peak of Mt Corcovado. It was dedicated on 12th October, 1931.

Interestingly, the statue features a stylised image of a small heart in the middle of the chest - the only part of the sculpture that projects inward. Two of the project's engineers - Heitor Levy and Pedro Fernandes Viana - placed a small glass container inside the inner projection which contained a document with both their family trees in what has been called "a demonstration of faith and gratitude".

The hollow statue, which was visted by Pope John Paul II in 1980, was, in 2007, was named as one of the 'New Seven Wonders of the World'. A chapel located under the statue was consecrated by Cardinal Eusebio Oscar Scheid, the Archbishop of Rio, in October 2006, a ceremony marking the monument's 75th anniversary.

The monument, which has been damaged several times by lightning in recent years, has also been repaired and renovated several times since its creation including a four month restoration held project in 2010 during which it was also attacked by vandals. Lifts, walkways and escalators were installed in 2000 to help people reach the summit.

Inspired by Christ the Redeemer, numerous other similar statues have been built in other locations around the world including in the US, Spain, and Cuba.

For information on visiting the statue, see https://en.cristoredentoroficial.com.br.

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