One of the most iconic statues in the world sits on top of Corcovado Mountain in Rio de Janeiro. Attracting nearly 2 million visitors a year, it’s now one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. It’s spectacular, awe-inspiring, and practically mind-blowing. But I had two questions. Why was this colossal, art-deco rendition of Jesus Christ placed atop this mountain? And, how on earth did they manage to put it there?
To understand my curiosity, you’d have to take the harrowing, ear-popping, ride up Corcovado Mountain, which in Portuguese means, “humpback.” Two-thousand, three hundred and twenty-nine feet of cobblestoned switchbacks bring you to the “landing” of the mountain where you can take a break, have a snack, do some shopping, and prepare yourself for another 20-minute ride, straight up. Two hundred additional steps are required to reach the base of this magnificent statue, which spans 230 feet in length.
While hordes of tourists posed for the perfect Insta selfie, I wanted answers. Surely transporting some 635 metric tons (1,399,935 pounds) up a humpback mountain took a serious amount of planning. Here’s the deal …
The statue of Christ the Redeemer was finished in 1931 – five years after construction started, to celebrate Brazil’s 100 years of independence from Portugal. Because the majority of the country was Catholic at the time, celebrating independence with a giant statue of Jesus Christ was the perfect expression of gratitude. The statue’s outstretched arms embraced Brazil’s coast and proved a welcoming sign to travelers.
Then there’s the how. It gets sketchy from here, but some records show the statue was composed of six million tiles transported by cogwheel train over the years of construction. (While the train no longer runs, the tracks are visible on the road up the mountain.) In fact, the tiles were a soap stone covering to protect the statue from the elements.
The statue is a steel-mounted frame covered in cement – cement that was hauled up hill and mixed on the mountain, regardless of the wind, rain, sun, and whatever else Brazilian weather had in store. Construction concluded in 1931, with a total cost of about $250,000 U.S. dollars—equivalent to about $3.4 million in today's value.
Regardless of how and why – the “what” is this – Christ the Redeemer is a world-wonder well worth seeing in person.