The idea for erecting a large statue atop Corcovado was first suggested in the mid-1850s, when Catholic priest Pedro Maria Boss requested financing from Princess Isabel to build a large religious monument. Princess Isabel did not think much of the idea and it was dismissed in 1889, when Brazil became a republic with laws mandating the separation of church and state. The second proposal for a landmark statue on the mountain was made in 1921 by the Catholic Circle of Rio. The group organised an event called Semana do Monumento ("Monument Week") to attract donations and collect signatures to support the building of the statue. The donations came mostly from Brazilian Catholics. The designs considered for the "Statue of the Christ" included a representation of the Christian cross, a statue of Jesus with a globe in his hands, and a pedestal symbolizing the world. The statue of Christ the Redeemer with open arms was chosen. It is a symbol of peace as well. There are small spikes on top of the statue in order to prevent birds from resting on it.
Local engineer Heitor da Silva Costa designed the statue; it was sculpted by French sculptor Paul Landowski. A group of engineers and technicians studied Landowski's submissions and the decision was made to build the structure out of reinforced concrete (designed by Albert Caquot) instead of steel, more suitable for the cross-shaped statue. The outer layers are soapstone, chosen for its enduring qualities and ease of use. Construction took nine years, from 1922 to 1931 and cost the equivalent of US$250,000 (approximately US$3.5 million in 2009). The monument was opened on October 12, 1931. The statue was meant to be lit by a battery of floodlights triggered remotely by shortwave radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi, stationed 5,700 miles (9,200 km) away in Rome, but poor weather affected the signal and it had to be lit by workers in Rio.
In October 2006, on the statue's 75th anniversary, Archbishop of Rio Cardinal Eusebio Oscar Scheid consecrated a chapel (named after the patron saint of Brazil—Nossa Senhora Aparecida, or "Our Lady of the Apparition,") under the statue. This allows Catholics to hold baptisms and weddings there.
The statue was struck by lightning during a violent electrical storm on Sunday, February 10, 2008 and suffered some damage on the fingers, head and eyebrows. A restoration effort was put in place by the Rio de Janeiro state government and archdiocese, to replace some of the outer soapstone layers and repair the lightning rods installed on the statue.
On April 15, 2010 graffiti was sprayed on the statue's head and right arm. Mayor Eduardo Paes called the act "a crime against the nation" and vowed to jail the vandals, even offering a reward of R$ 10,000 on any information that may lead to an arrest. The Military Police eventually identified house painter Paulo Souza dos Santos as the suspect of the act of vandalism.
New Seven Wonders of the World
On 7 July 2007, Christ the Redeemer was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in a list compiled by the Swiss-based The New Open World Corporation. Leading corporate sponsors, including Banco Bradesco and Rede Globo, had lobbied to have the statue voted into the top seven.
Declared a protected monument by the National Heritage Institute, IPHAN, in 2009, the Christ the Redeemer monument underwent restoration work in 1980 before the visit of Pope John Paul II.
In 1990, further restoration work was conducted through an agreement between the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro, media company Rede Globo, oil company Shell do Brasil, environment regulator IBAMA, National Heritage Secretariat SPHAN and the city government of Rio de Janeiro.
More work on the statue and its environs was conducted in 2003 and early 2010. In 2003, a set of escalators, walkways and elevators was installed to facilitate access to the platform surrounding the statue.
The four-month restoration in 2010, carried out by mining company Vale in partnership with the Archdiocese, focused on the statue itself. The statue's internal structure was renovated and its soapstone mosaic covering was restored by removing a crust of fungi and other microorganisms and repairing small cracks. The lightning rods located in the statue’s head and arms were also repaired.
The restoration involved one hundred people and used in excess of 60,000 pieces of stone, taken from the same quarry as the original statue. During the unveiling of the restored statue, it was illuminated with green and yellow lighting in support of the Brazil national football team playing in the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Maintenance work needs to be conducted periodically due to the strong winds and rain to which the statue is exposed.
Portrayal in fiction
Christ the Redeemer is featured in various works of fiction and media. The statue was featured in a major destruction scene in the movie 2012. It is featured in the videogames Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X, Driver 2, Tropico 3, ', OSS 117 – Lost in Rio, ' and Civilization V. It can be seen in the video for Janet Jackson's, "Runaway" and in the video for the Latin group Wisin & Yandel's "Pam Pam" video.
- Cristo Redentore, Christ the Redeemer of Maratea, Italy
- Christ of Vung Tau in Vietnam (32 m)
- Cristo-Rei in Portugal: a 28 metre high replica of Christ the Redeemer
- Cristo Rei of Dili: a 27 metre high statue in Dili, Timor-Leste
- Cerro del Cubilete in Guanajuato, Mexico: a 23 meter high statue inspired by Christ the Redeemer
- Cristo Rey in Ejutla, Jalisco: Inspired By Rio de Janeiro's one
- Christ of the Ozarks in Arkansas, USA: a 20 metre high statue inspired by Christ the Redeemer
- Christ of Havana in Havana, Cuba: a 20 metre high statue inspired by Christ the Redeemer
- Christ the Redeemer of the Andes (Argentina/Chile)
- Cristo de la Concordia in Cochabamba, Bolivia
- Cristo Blanco in Cuzco, Peru
- Cristo de las Noas in Torreón, Mexico
- Christ of the Abyss in various underwater locations
- Cristo Redentor del Teide, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain
- Christ the King (Polish: Pomnik Chrystusa Króla), 33 metres (108 ft) tall and weighing 440 tonnes. in Świebodzin, Poland