Christ the Redeemer is 90 years old today... so how was it built?

·3-min read
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - December 28, 2013: Aerial view from a helicopter of Rio de Janeiro with the Corcovado mountain and the statue of Christ the Redeemer with Sugarloaf mountain in the background.
The iconic statue, which overlooks Rio de Janeiro from 700 metres high, is one of the most recognisable landmarks in the world. (Getty)

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It is one of the most iconic vistas in the world and was unveiled nearly a century ago – on 12 October, 1931. 

Brazil's statue of Christ the Redeemer sits on top of the 700-metre (2,300ft) Corcovado mountain overlooking the city of Rio de Janeiro.

Standing 30 metres (98ft) high, with arms stretching 28m (92ft) wide, the world-famous statue has become a cultural icon and was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. 

In this photo scafolding is seen at the foot of the statue are uniformed British officers of the cruiser
Christ the Redeemer took nine years to build. (Getty)

The idea for a Christian monument on Mount Corcovado was first floated by a priest in the mid-1850s to honour Princess Isabel, regent of Brazil and the daughter of Emperor Pedro II, but the proposal was dismissed after Brazil became a republic in 1889. 

In 1920 a second proposal for a "Statue of the Christ" was made, motivated by so-called "godlessness" in society, and funded mainly by donations from Brazilian Catholics. 

Polish sculptor, shown at work on the hand of the giant statue of Christ which he is completing and which will be placed in Rio De Janeiro Bay, South America.
Parts of the statue were crated in clay then shipped to Brazil. (Getty)
Corcovado Rack Railway, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The mountain railway, opened by Emperor Dom Pedro II in 1884, was initially steam-powered and later converted to electricity. The railway takes tourists up to the statue of Christ the Redeemer on the summit of Mount Corcovado. Postcard. Artist Unknown. (Photo by The Print Collector/Heritage Images via Getty Images)
Materials for the huge statue were carried up the mountain by railway. (Getty)

Designs included a representation of the Christian cross, a statue of Jesus with a globe in his hands, and a pedestal symbolising the world. The statue of Christ the Redeemer with open arms was chosen.

The statue was first made in France by French sculptor Paul Landowski, who created it in clay pieces.

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Those pieces were then shipped to Brazil to be re-made with reinforced concrete by Brazilian engineer Heitor da Silva Costa and French engineer Albert Caquot.

Christ the Redeemer also has an outer shell made up of 6 million soapstone tiles – some said to have notes written on the back by the workers who made them.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - CIRCA 1930: The Statue of Christ the Redeemer on Corcovado Mountain, near the port of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, circa 1930. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystine via Getty Images)
The statue sits high above Rio, and can be seen for miles. (Getty)
An airplane view of the great religious shrine on the crest of the Corcovado new Rio De Janerio and placed some 2100 feet above sea level. The statue is 130 feet high, nearly the size of the great Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. This shrine will be officially unveiled on October 12, 1931. The only other larger statue in the western world is the
The statue was made of concrete then covered in soapstone tiles. (Getty)

It took nine years in total to build the giant statue from 1922, when the first foundation stone was laid, to 1931 – and cost the equivalent of $250,000 (£183,000). 

That would be more like around $3.6m (£2.6m) or more nowadays.

Materials were carried up the mountain using a railway, and workers reportedly used long wooden poles acting as scaffolding to construct the face of the statue.

The monument was officially opened on 12 October, 1931 – 90 years ago today.

TOPSHOT - Architect Cristina Ventura, who is in charge of the Christ the Redeemer statue restoration, looks out from the top of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on March 24, 2021. - Christ the Redeemer is celebrating its 90th anniversary in October 2021 and is receiving restoration work to ensure that it looks its best for the public and visiting tourists. (Photo by CARL DE SOUZA / AFP) / The erroneous mention[s] appearing in the metadata of this photo by CARL DE SOUZA has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: [2021] instead of [2020]. Please immediately remove the erroneous mention[s] from all your online services and delete it (them) from your servers. If you have been authorized by AFP to distribute it (them) to third parties, please ensure that the same actions are carried out by them. Failure to promptly comply with these instructions will entail liability on your part for any continued or post notification usage. Therefore we thank you very much for all your attention and prompt action. We are sorry for the inconvenience this notification may cause and remain at your disposal for any further information you may require. (Photo by CARL DE SOUZA/AFP via Getty Images)
Restoration work started in 2010, including cleaning, replacing mortar and restoring iron in the internal structure. (Getty)
The statue was vandalised during the restoration work but the culprits later handed themselves in. (Getty)
The statue was vandalised during the restoration work but the culprits later handed themselves in. (Getty)

The statue has been struck by lightning several times, damaging areas including the fingers, head and eyebrows. 

In 2010 restoration work began, including cleaning the statue, replacing the mortar and soapstone on the exterior, restoring iron in the internal structure, and waterproofing it.

Christ the Redeemer was vandalised during this time, in what Mayor Eduardo Paes called "a crime against the nation". 

The culprits, who had sprayed paint on the arm of the statue, later handed themselves in and apologised.

Watch: Brazil's Christ the Redeemer gets a facelift

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