Since 1931, the iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer has towered over Rio de Janeiro, its outstretched arms seen by many as a testament to the warmth of the Brazilian people. Standing 125 feet (38 m) high, and located at the peak of the 2,330-foot (710-m) Corcovado mountain in the Tijuca Forest National Park, the statue is the work of sculptor Paul Landowski, to a design by local engineer Heito da Silva Costa.
The idea for a religious monument on the site was first put forward in 1859 by Pedro Maria Boss. The plan came to fruition, however, only when a monument was proposed to celebrate 100 years of Brazil’s independence from Portugal. Constructed from reinforced concrete with outer layers of soapstone, the monument took five years to complete and was unveiled on October 12,1931.
In 2006, a chapel under the statue was consecrated, allowing Catholics to hold baptisms and
weddings there. Access to the statue is now much easier than when it was first built, as the Corcovado railway cuts up from the Rio suburbs, through the jungle, toward the summit, with an elevator and escalator from the station to the peak. It is a truly inspiring site, with panoramic views of one of the world’s most exciting and beautifully situated cities. The surrounding Tijuca Forest National Park is one of the last remaining fragments of the Atlantic rain forest, approximately 93 percent of which was cut down by Europeans to make way for coffee plantations. Tijuca Forest was replanted in the second half of the nineteenth century by Major Manuel Gomes Archer, who was appointed the first forest administrator.
Along with the Amazon rain forest, the statue of Christ the Redeemer—one of the largest and most recognizable Art Deco sculptures ever created—has become the key image of Brazil around the world.