Christ the Redeemer
Christ the Redeemer (Portuguese: Cristo Redentor, standard Brazilian Portuguese: [ˈkɾistu ʁedẽˈtoʁ], local dialect: [ˈkɾiɕtŭ̻ xe̞dẽ̞ˈtoɦ]) is an Art Deco statue of Jesus Christ in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, created by French sculptor Paul Landowski and built by the Brazilian engineer Heitor da Silva Costa, in collaboration with the French engineer Albert Caquot. Romanian sculptor Gheorghe Leonida fashioned the face. Constructed between 1922 and 1931, the statue is 30 metres (98 ft) tall, excluding its 8-metre (26 ft) pedestal. The arms stretch 28 metres (92 ft) wide.
The statue weighs 635 metric tons (625 long, 700 short tons), and is located at the peak of the 700-metre (2,300 ft) Corcovadomountain in the Tijuca Forest National Park overlooking the city of Rio de Janeiro. A symbol of Christianity across the world, the statue has also become a cultural icon of both Rio de Janeiro and Brazil, and is listed as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. It is made of reinforced concrete and soapstone.
Vincentian priest, Pedro Maria Boss, first suggested placing a Christian monument on Mount Corcovado in the mid 1850s to honor Princess Isabel, princess regent of Brazil and the daughter of Emperor Pedro II, however the project died due to lack of support. In 1889 the country became a republic, and due to the separation of church and state, the idea of the statue was dismissed.
The Catholic Circle of Rio made a second proposal for a landmark statue on the mountain in 1920. The group organized an event called Semana do Monumento (“Monument Week”) to attract donations and collect signatures to support the building of the statue. What motivated the organization was what they perceived as ‘Godlessness’ in the society at the time. The donations came mostly from Brazilian Catholics.The designs considered for the “Statue of the Christ” included a representation of the Christian cross, a statue of Jesus with a globe in his hands, and a pedestal symbolizing the world. The statue of Christ the Redeemer with open arms, a symbol of peace, was chosen.
In 1922, Landowski commissioned fellow Parisian Romanian sculptor Gheorghe Leonida, who studied sculpture at the Fine Arts Conservatory in Bucharest and in Italy. Leonida’s portrayal of Christ’s face made him famous.
A group of engineers and technicians studied Landowski’s submissions and felt building the structure of reinforced concrete (designed by Albert Caquot) instead of steel was more suitable for the cross-shaped statue. The outer layers are soapstone, chosen for its enduring qualities and ease of use. Construction took nine years, from 1922 to 1931 and cost the equivalent of US$250,000 (equivalent to $3,400,000 in 2017) and the monument opened on October 12, 1931. During the opening ceremony, the statue was to be lit by a battery of floodlights turned on remotely by Italian shortwave radio inventor Guglielmo Marconi, stationed 5,700 miles (9,200 km) away in Rome but because of bad weather, the lights were activated on-site.
In October 2006, on the 75th anniversary of the statue’s completion, Archbishop of Rio, Cardinal Eusebio Oscar Scheid, consecrated a chapel, named after Brazil’s patron saint—Our Lady of the Apparition, under the statue, allowing Catholics to hold baptisms and weddings there.
Lightning struck the statue during a violent thunderstorm on February 10, 2008, causing some damage to the fingers, head and eyebrows. The Rio de Janeiro state government initiated a restoration effort to replace some of the outer soapstone layers and repair the lightning rods on the statue. Lightning damaged it again, on January 17, 2014, dislodging a finger on the right hand.
In 2010, a massive restoration of the statue began. Work included cleaning, replacing the mortar and soapstone on the exterior, restoring iron in the internal structure, and waterproofing the monument. Vandals attacked the statue during renovation, spraying paint along the arm. Mayor Eduardo Paes called the act “a crime against the nation”. The culprits later apologized and presented themselves to the police.
Edited by Ariasun editorial board
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