Christ Redeemer – Rio, Brazil (21.07.16)

The iconic statue of Christ Redeemer, overlooking the seaside setting of Rio de Janerio from the top of the jungle clad Corcovado Mountain, is one of the planet’s most recognisable images. However, further to recently being voted a ‘New 7 Wonders’ of the world, it is about to go into visit-overdrive as the 2106 Olympic Games start.

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While Paul Landowski’s 38m high statue itself is impressive, as a standalone piece I personally don’t believe it quite merits a ‘7 Wonder of the World’ tag. What is sensational though, is the setting. Majestically located in the clouds, it has phenomenal views over a swathe of cityscapes in every direction. Crashing ocean surf, colourful lakes, dense jungle, bobbing boats, sprawling favelas, high-rises, docklands, busy aircraft and the Maracana stadium all shimmer as if in a distant dream-world below.

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Even though it is so remote – requiring considerable time, patience and energy to visit – it is well worth all the hype. I urge you to make the trip, even if, when pressed for time, Sugar Loaf Mountain and Copacabana Beach present easier options.

Positioned atop the Tijuca Forest National Park, 700m above the beaches, the statue can be accessed by electrically powered trains or by road. Indeed the railway, built in 1884, played an essential part in transporting materials and labour to and from the statue. Today at peak times it carries over 350 people an hour, passing between impressive jungle, rock formations and wilderness areas normally associated with a destination many miles from a major city.

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The more intrepid visitor can access the top via one of over fifty hiking or climbing routes. Be warned though: they are potentially dangerous and often require experienced climbing techniques.

Owned by the Catholic Church, this statue, once you are up close and personal, is a stunning sight, if only for the feat of engineering alone. Since its construction began in 1926, over 200 steps, escalators and mountain-hugging elevators have been added. The 75th anniversary saw the construction of a chapel to Our Lady of Aparecida (patron saint of Brazil) at the base. The biggest spring clean also took place four years later in 2010 when Pope John Paul II visited.

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Made from reinforced concrete, the statue has a mosaic coating of thousands of triangular soap stones, and stands on a square stone pedestal 8m high. Despite the melee of tourists enjoying the viewing platforms below, Christ Redeemer’s 28m widely outstretched arms give off an aura of peace.

It seems particularly fitting so high above Rio de Janeiro, a city renowned for its natural setting as much as its vitality.

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