How Christ The Redeemer statue came to dominate the Rio skyline: Fascinating photos show how iconic statue was built and the story behind it
- It was built after Brazilians feared a lack of God in their lives after Church and state separated in a republic
- Designed in the early 1920s before opening in 1931, the designs kept changing during construction phase
- The architect said: ‘We were marching towards… artistic failure, without being able to go back’
- Located more than 700 metres (2296.59 feet) above ground, the statue is 38 metres (124.672 feet) high with an arm span of 28 metres (91.8635 feet).
Brazilian engineer and architect Heitor da Silva Costa (left) won the design competition before building the statue with French engineer Albert Caquot (centre). Romanian artist Gheorghe Leonida (right) helped work on the face
Brazilian architect Heitor da Silva Costa won the design competition in early 1922, reportedly imagining the statue to face the rising sun.
‘The statue of The Divine Saviour shall be the first Image to emerge from the obscurity in which the earth is plunged and to receive the salute of the star of the day which, after surrounding it with its radiant luminosity, shall build at sunset around its Head a halo fit for the Man-God,’ he said, according to the BBC.
An initial design involved a statue of Christ carrying a cross in one Hand and a globe in his other Hand – though this was often wrongly interpreted at the time as a ball.
The foundation stone for the statue was laid in 1922.
French-Polish sculptor Paul Landowski shown at work on a hand for the sculpture
Landowski works next to a miniature of the statue, which would later tower 38 (124.672 feet) metres when erected on the mountain
The project being constructed, but already overlooking, the port of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, circa 1930
Scaffolding is seen while, at the foot of the statue, uniformed British officers of the cruiser ‘Dauntless’ visited the gigantic statue before its formal unveiling.
But the design and finish had still not been finalised – and would not be for years, even as a steel frame was erected on the top of the mountain well into the late 1920s.
‘We were marching towards the inevitable artistic failure, without being able to go back,’ Silva Costa reportedly said.
A defining moment in the project came when the design, now utilizing the skills of artist Carlos Oswald, instead made Christ Himself The Cross – an Iconic Symbol that would tower over Rio.
Da Silva Costa is said to have visited Europe in 1924 to seek help from the leading French engineer with reinforced concrete, Albert Caquot, meeting a range of sculptors along the way.
Polish-French sculptor Paul Landowski was chosen. He has been praised as the man behind the design of the figure’s head and hands, with the BBC saying he produced the pieces full-sized in clay before shipping them to Brazl to be reproduced in concrete.
Silva Costa was not a fan of concrete as a finish. Too rough and crude, he thought.
The finishing touches are applied to the statue ahead of its opening to an eager Brazilian public in October 1931
The statue during the opening on October 12, 1931 after almost a decade of designs and construction.
Then he walked past a fountain covered in a silvery mosaic in an arcade on the Champs Elysees in Paris.
‘By seeing how the small tiles covered all the curved profiles of the fountain, I was soon taken by the idea of using them on the Image which I always had in my thoughts,’ wrote Silva Costa according to the BBC.
Caquot was enlisted to help build the project under Silva Costa’s supervision. The materials were carried up the mountain by a railway.