Elected one of the seven wonders of the modern world, Christ the Redeemer celebrates its 90th anniversary as the most famous image in Brazil. In 1926, construction began on the 38-metre high monument on the top of Morro do Corcovado, 710 meters above sea level. It took five years to complete and opened on October 12 of that year.
The anniversary day of one of the country’s main postcards begins today (12) at 7:15 am, with the Religious Civic Act and Holy Mass in Thanksgiving for the 90 Years of Christ the Redeemer and in honor of Our Lady Aparecida. At the event, which will be attended by public and religious authorities, there will be the launch of the Commemorative Medal of the 90 Years of Christ the Redeemer and the Special Postal Block in Homage to the Monument of Christ the Redeemer.
The Esquadrilha da Fumaça, of the Brazilian Air Force, will make a presentation flying over the monument. The Marine Corps Band will participate musically in the event.
The entire ceremony will be broadcast live on the official channel of the Christ the Redeemer Sanctuary at YouTube.
The rector of the Christ the Redeemer Sanctuary, Father Omar Raposo, emphasizes that the monument is the “propaganda boy” of the country.” It is impossible to think of Brazil abroad without us reporting our gaze and our memory to this precious monument at the top of Corcovado”, he says. “The Christ the Redeemer gives us the feeling that it looks like it was carved on the hill of Corcovado Mountain. This is so wonderful. Can you imagine what Rio de Janeiro would be like if it weren’t for Christ the Redeemer?”
He remembers that the statue interacts perfectly with the surrounding nature, the Tijuca National Park, and brings an experience based on open arms. “These arms communicate welcoming and identify even more the heart of the Brazilian people, which is a welcoming heart, which also has strong arms for work, full of energy for us to be able to develop this much-loved nation”.
The quality of the work impresses the architect and sculptor Cristina Ventura, coordinator of the most recent restoration of the Christ. “It’s a quality that attracts attention these days. That’s what’s most amazing. Today, you can’t find much more recent structures with the quality that was made in this work”, says Cristina.
“There is no construction like that, in that period, with the audacity that was the Christ. Another milestone is that Christ is the greatest sculpture art deco of the world”, he adds.
The architect recalls that not only the engineers and architects involved in the project were audacious, but also the workers without personal protective equipment hanging from scaffolding over a cliff more than 700 meters high. “I keep imagining that when we, the team, do things with so much love, I imagine to them that I was building Christ the Redeemer. What kind of commitment these guys didn’t have here, you know?”, ponders Cristina.
Architect Cristina Ventura at Christ the Redeemer – Tânia Rego – Brazil Agency
For the 90th anniversary, emergency repairs were made to parts that had been damaged by the weather: parts of the cloak, right finger and the front of the head. In addition, as part of preventive maintenance, the Christ received equipment to measure the winds that hit the statue and also a reinforced lightning rod.
Christ of the Ball
This audacious project made of reinforced concrete and soapstone was financed by donations from the Brazilian population. In 1921, in preparation for the celebrations of the centenary of the Independence of Brazil, a Catholic group promoted a competition for a statue in honor of Jesus Christ. The winner was the architect and engineer Heitor da Silva Costa, who led the project, from conception to the inauguration of the work, on October 12, 1931.
The initial project, which had the image of Christ holding a cross in his left hand and the globe in his right hand, was nicknamed Cristo da Bola by the Cariocas.
Theologian Alexandre Pinheiro, coordinator of the Collection and Memory Center of the Cristo Redentor Sanctuary, says that it was not easy at the time to obtain authorization from the republican government for the work. A petition of 20,000 women, led by the writer Laurita Lacerda, helped overcome the resistance of then-president Epitácio Pessoa.
Documentarist Bel Noronha, who is Heitor da Silva Costa’s great-granddaughter, says that many people came to believe in a myth that Christ would have been a gift from France to Brazil because the Statue of Liberty, in New York, was a gift from the French government to the Americans. And also because the French worked on the Christ project.
But it was the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro that organized fundraising campaigns that mobilized not only Rio de Janeiro, but all of Brazil. The entire construction of the Cristo was financed with money from Brazilian donations.
The drawings for Heitor da Silva Costa’s project were made by the painter Carlos Oswald. And Hector sought partnerships in France for the work. To make the structural calculations, he hired the engineer Alberto Caquot and to make the statue, the French-Polish sculptor Paul Landowski, a great exponent of the movement art deco. Landowski made a mockup and life-size sculpture of the head and hands of the monument, whose plaster casts were sent to Brazil in numbered parts.
The sculpture was reproduced in reinforced concrete and covered in soapstone. Groups of women gathered in the rectory to make the mosaics that were later applied to the statue. Many have written the names of loved ones on the back of the soapstone triangles.
In addition to being portrayed in Brazilian art, such as in the song Samba do Avião by Tom Jobim, distinguished visitors such as Pope John Paul II, the spiritual leader Dalai Lama, Princess Diana and Prince Charles and the former president of the United States, Barack Obama , with his family, have already been to the top of Corcovado.
*With information from TV Brasil
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