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Rio de Janeiro

Christ the Redeemer

sunny 78 °F

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We were off early to go up Corcovado Mountain where Christ the Redeemer stands with arms spread over the city. The statue was conceived and constructed as a religious icon, but it has become a cultural icon as well. We have heard many descriptions of what the Christ is doing: welcoming the world to Rio, being a symbol of peace, protecting the city, symbolizing Christ's dominion. The statue is BIG, 100 feet tall with an arm spread of 90 feet, and it rises from a 2300 feet high mountain.

You get up that mountain on a tram railway that opened in 1884 as a steam railway. After many variants, adaptations, and improvements, the tram is now a sparkling electric railway installed last year. The trip takes twenty minutes and is VERY steep. Once you emerge at the foot of the statue, you can't help but gasp at this gorgeous huge city that weaves in and out of the bays and ocean and mountains and favelas that surround it. And then you gasp at the statue, at its size, at the thousands of tourists that lie on the ground and lean over the railings to take photos at odd angles.

Around the back of the statue, buried beneath Christ's feet is a little chapel. Strangely, it is the chapel of the black madonna. The statue of the highly decorated madonna is small and accessible, and people sit on stools saying their prayers. It feels like the Christ is too big, too public, too stark, too municipal maybe to hear the prayers of the faithful. They need a little place where they can open their heart to a madonna who will listen and care.

Rio's population is 6 million; the urban area has 13 million. It is a lively city; walls have colorful graffiti that shimmer and ugly graffiti that mar the view. It is clean, the architecture is fascinating, and the cariocas (residents) are friendly and vibrant. Copacabana Beach extends for miles and there's not much free space on it.

Posted by HopeEakins 13:30 Archived in Brazil

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