A New Statue of Jesus Is the World’s Tallest—for Now

“Christ the Protector” is taller than Rio de Janeiro’s most famous monument

Image of the top half of "Christ the Protector" with the sun setting in the background
When access to the interior of the statue is permitted, visitiors will be able to take in the surrounding views from the glass-encased heart at Jesus' chest. Photo by SILVIO AVILA/AFP via Getty Images)

For nearly a century, Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer has overlooked Rio de Janeiro from Mount Corcovado. Arguably one of the most iconic statues in the world, the towering depiction of Jesus Christ immediately became a national symbol when it opened in 1931.

But now, a small Brazilian town has bested the statue with its own massive Jesus, CNN Travel’s Jack Guy, Vasco Cotovio, Rodrigo Pedroso, and Francesca Street report. One hundred forty-three feet in height, Cristo Protetor (Christ the Protector) was completed on April 22.

It’s located in Encantado in Brazil’s Rio Grande do Sul, a small locale of just roughly 23,000 people. Encantado may be tiny compared to the capital city, but it’s put itself on the map with the statue, which is now the tallest of its kind in the world—or not, depending on how you look at it.

Its sky-high rivals include Indonesia’s Jesus Buntu Burake (131 feet without pedestal) Poland’s Christ the King and Bolivia’s Christ of Peace (both 108 feet without pedestal or base). And of course there’s Christ the Redeemer (also 108 feet without pedestal, but a skosh shorter than Bolivia’s statue due to a different hairstyle.)

The statue was designed by father-and-son team Genésio Gomes Moura and Markus Moura. As Rachel Davies reports for Architectural Digest, the father-son duo created a statue that is “far more detailed than Rio de Janeiro’s 91 year old soapstone iteration. More life-like hair, facial features, and a fuller robe were created for the Encantado statue, but, stylistically, it shares an Art Deco-leaning style with Rio’s Christ the Redeemer.”

Per the project’s website, the statue features a glass-encased “heart” that will be accessible via elevator. The monument has a wingspan of 127 feet and weighs an estimated 1,700 tons.

Entry into the interior won’t start until next year when shops, restaurants, and viewing areas at the base are completed. For now, visitors can tour Christ the Protector from its base for $4 on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., per CNN Travel.

Tours have been ongoing throughout the statue’s construction. The project website says that so far, more than 37,500 people have come to visit.

"Christ the Protector" with head and arms completed and body under construction
Construction on "Christ the Protector" began in 2019 and is being entirely funded by donations. Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images

The huge artwork has also been the site of multiple religious services, most recently an October Mass for the feast day of Nossa Senhora da Conceição Aparecida (Our Lady of Aparecida), a title that refers to the Virgin Mary as patroness of Brazil.

The country has the largest Catholic population in the world; roughly 123 million people, or about two-thirds of its population, identify with the religious practice.

The project was suggested as a means of increasing tourism in the area, which is close to Brazil’s borders with Uruguay and Argentina. Local politician Adroaldo Conzatti was a major champion of the project but died from Covid-19 complications last March, the BBC reports. Construction is being entirely funded by donations to organizing group Association of the Friends of Christ, per the BBC; the overall cost of the statue will be $350,000.

Encantado’s soaring Jesus sculpture is giving Christ the Redeemer a tall challenge. But its status as the world’s tallest Christ will be short-lived. According to the Times’ Stephen Gibbs, a 252-foot-tall statue called the Christ of Peace is currently being constructed in Mexico’s Ciudad Victoria. It will be designed by Mexican architect Fernando Romero, whose planned redesign of Mexico City’s international airport was canceled in 2018 amid political turmoil and accusations of corruption and construction fraud.

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