Updated on July 17, 2014
A visit to the Statue of Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor) on Corcovado is one of the best experiences a tourist in Rio de Janeiro can wish for.
One of the New Seven Wonders of the World and a Catholic Santuary, the statue has recently been the talk of the planet thanks to its stellar performance in the 2014 World Cup, when it was beautifully lighted in each national team's colors. Since then, it has made a few more waves in a LeBron selfie.
But there's more going on for Christ the Redeemer. On July 11, the latest restoration of the monument, sponsored by Pirelli, was officially presented. The company, which is celebrating 85 years of its presence in Brazil, paid for the repair of damage caused by lightning which hit the statue in December 2013 and January 2014. The thumb, index finger, and middle finger of the right hand and four points on the head were repaired. So were tesserae and the cathodic protection which is crucial for the preservation of the steel in the structure.
Most importantly, this time the electric discharge protection system was reinforced. In the past, the Cristo Redentor has been hit by lightning an average of six times a year, according to Brazil's National Space Research Institute (INPE).
Changing Points of View
This month, Pirelli is promoting "How the Christ Sees You" -- when you visit, sign up with the help of a promoter, using your Instagram account or the Pirelli hotsite, stand on a marked spot and have your photo taken by cameras on the statue's head.
In the meantime, sit back and enjoy the same spectacular angles as the daredevil restoration team in Olhar do Cristo, which is showing two pictures taken each minute by two other cameras on the statue's head.
For a rush of virtual adrenaline, watch a short video showing those brave men at work:
Rio attractions which can be seen from Corcovado include: Sugarloaf Mountain, Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, Botafogo, Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon. Beyond the shimmering Guanabara Bay, visitors can see other mountains in Rio de Janeiro State.
Work of Wonder
Long before being voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, the Statue of Christ the Redeemer atop the Corcovado was considered a major engineering feat.
Brazilians Heitor da Silva Costa and Carlos Oswald created the project and design respectively, but the statue was made in France by sculptor Paul Landowski. It was transported to Rio in pieces, by ship, and to the top of the mountain by the train.
The statue was inaugurated on Oct.12, 1931. Journalist and communications mogul Assis Chateaubriand planned a special lighting with Italian scientist and inventor Guglielmo Marconi, who would send a signal to a Rio station from his floating laboratory, the yacht Elettra, all the way from Naples Bay. But bad weather made the plan impossible.
The famous statue has been celebrated in songs. One of them is the bossa nova hit Samba do Avião, by Tom Jobim, which has the famous line "Cristo Redentor, braços abertos sobre a Guanabara" ("Christ the Redeemer, arms open wide over Guanabara"). Another one is Hope of the Morning, the official song for World Youth Day 2013.
The Sanctuary: Social Networking and Fundraising
World Youth Day 2013 helped highlight the fact that the monument is also a sanctuary (dedicated to Our Lady of Aparecida, Brazil's patron saint) and a pilgrimage site, maintained by the Catholic Church.
That has given rise to situations such as the Church suing Columbia Pictures over use of the statue's image in the movie 2012 and a recent polemic over veto of image use in "Inútilpaisagem" ("Useless Landscape"), one of the stories in the movie "Rio, I Love You" (opening Sep.11 in Brazil).
The organization is launching a website (cristoredentoroficial.com.br) -- which will include information about the monument itself, weddings, and more, and links to social networking platforms.
The Church has also started the campaign "Sou de Cristo" ("I belong to Christ", soudecristo.org.br), a fundraiser for regular maintenance of the monument. For each R$7 donation, givers get a miniature Christ the Redeemer brooch.
Visits to the Corcovado and the Statue of Christ the Redeemer help make the Tijuca Forest National Park one of the most popular in Brazil. According to ICM Bio, the institute which oversees Brazil's national parks, the Tijuca National Park and Iguaçu National Park account for 90% of the 3,5 million people who visit Brazil's national parks annually.
The best up-close views of the statue might elude the visitor on a short stay. The rainforest-covered mountain, which stands at a height of about 2,329 feet, and the 124-foot tall statue are sometimes enveloped by clouds which impair the view of the monument and the city - and admission tickets are not returned in case of inclement weather. Clear skies in Rio? Grab your opportunity.
The historic cogwheel train was inaugurated in 1884 by Emperor Pedro II. The steep ride departing from the station in Cosme Velho and running through the Tijuca Forest - with the occasional treat of samba groups playing on the cars - is a great alternative to vans.
After the cogwheel ride, visitors can reach the Statue of Christ the Redeemer on three panoramic elevators (for 14 people each) and escalators which can transport up to 9,000 people per hour.
The cogwheel station, the train and the Corcovado are wheelchair-accessible.
Cogwheel Train Hours: Daily 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tickets: R$50 round trip. Free for children 5 and younger. One-way cogwheel train ride lasts about 20 minutes. Trains depart every 30 minutes.
Instead of taking the Corcovado Train, visitors can take certified vans departing from Copacabana, Largo do Machado, or Paineiras. Taxis can only reach as far as Paineiras.
See all the prices and the address for each van stop on the official Tijuca National Park website:
- From About.com Architecture: Cristo Redentor, Protector of Rio