Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Rio Can Wait

I was mentioning to my friend Phil the other night how pissed off I’d be if I was holidaying in Rio de Janeiro at the moment. Why? Because as the Associated Press recently reported, the city’s “iconic Christ the Redeemer statue will be closed indefinitely because of damage to access roads from heavy rains.”

The article goes on to note that:

Workers are laboring to remove dirt, trees, rocks and other debris obstructing roads after flooding and mudslides last week in Tijuca National Park, where the statue stands on a mountaintop.

The city said the work could take as long as six months, though access could be restored much sooner.

“We believe visitors will be able to return within one or two months,” Bernardo Issa, director of the Tijuca National Park, said in a statement. “We do not have a timeline yet though, this has not been defined.”

A trolley line that carries tourists to the statue was shut down because of the threat of more mudslides.

The Christ the Redeemer statue is a top tourist draw and was named one of the world’s seven new wonders in 2007.

I actually remember voting online for Christ the Redeemer to be chosen as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. (I also voted for the Sydney Opera House, but it didn’t end up on the list!) I've always appreciated the welcoming and inclusive embrace of Christ that this particular statue symbolizes. Indeed, when I saw 2012, I was more perturbed by the film’s depiction of the crumbling Christ the Redeemer, than by the toppling of the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica. Hmm, what does that say about me, I wonder.

Anyway, reading this news story got me thinking about the great statue of Christ perched high above Rio. Here’s a little of what Wikipedia has to say about it.

Christ the Redeemer is a statue of Jesus Christ in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; considered the largest Art Deco statue in the world. The statue is 39.6 metres (130 ft) tall, including its 9.5 meter (31 feet) pedestal, and 30 metres (98 ft) wide. It weighs 635 tons, and is located at the peak of the 700 metres (2,300 ft) Corcovado Mountain in the Tijuca Forest National Park overlooking the city. It is one of the tallest of its kind in the world. . . . A symbol of Christianity, the statue has become an icon of Rio and Brazil. It is made of reinforced concrete and soapstone.

The idea for erecting a large statue atop Corcovado was first suggested in the mid-1850s, when Catholic priest Pedro Maria Boss requested financing from Princess Isabel to build a large religious monument. Princess Isabel did not think much of the idea and it was completely dismissed in 1889, when Brazil became a republic with laws mandating the separation of church and state. The second proposal for a landmark statue on the mountain was made in 1921 by the Catholic Circle of Rio. The group organized an event called Semana do Monumento (“Monument Week”) to attract donations and collect signatures to support the building of the statue. 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 was chosen.

Local engineer Heitor da Silva Costa designed the statue; it was sculpted by French sculptor Paul Landowski. A group of engineers and technicians studied Landowski’s submissions and the decision was made to build the structure out of reinforced concrete (designed by Albert Caquot) instead of steel, 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. The monument was opened on October 12, 1931. The cost of the monument was $250,000. The statue was meant to be lit by a battery of floodlights triggered remotely by shortwave radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi, stationed 5,700 miles (9,200 km) away in Rome[6], but poor weather affected the signal and it had to be lit by workers in Rio.

In October 2006, on the statue’s 75th anniversary, Archbishop of Rio Cardinal Eusebio Oscar Scheid consecrated a chapel (named for the patron saint of Brazil — Nossa Senhora Aparecida, or “Our Lady of the Apparition”), under the statue. This allows Catholics to hold baptisms and weddings there.

The statue was struck by lightning during a violent electrical storm on Sunday, February 10, 2008 and suffered some damage on the fingers, head and eyebrows. A restoration effort was put in place by the Rio de Janeiro state government and archdiocese, to replace some of the outer soapstone layers and repair the lightning rods installed on the statue.

On April 15, 2010 graffiti was sprayed on the statue’s head and right arm. Mayor Eduardo Paes called the act “a crime against the nation” and vowed to jail the vandals, even offering a reward of R$ 5,000 on any information that may lead to an arrest.

Recommended Off-site Link:
Christ the Redeemer: History and Pictures
Brazilians Offended Over Destruction of Christ the Redeemer - Olsen Ebright (NBC Los Angeles, October 20, 2009).

See also the previous Wild Reed post:
Anayole France’s The Ocean Christ

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