“It was important to come and pray to the one who protects us”: Rio de Janeiro celebrates the 90th anniversary of its Christ the Redeemer

A few more steps, a last souvenir shop and, finally, it is the arrival at the foot of “Cristo Redentor”, the famous statue which dominates the bay of Rio and whose 90th anniversary the city celebrated on October 12th. For the first time in ten days, it is not raining. There is even a little sun, which delights José, installed behind the cash register of the shop. Wearing a green polo shirt emblazoned with the iconic tourist site, it is quite simply a “privilege” for him to hold this position. “This monument is known all over the world, it is even the one that most symbolizes Brazil, and I see it every day! “

Among the tourists busy photographing themselves in front of Christ with open arms, or near the monkeys running on the balustrades, some are unaware of the anniversary date. But others came specially. At the entrance to the chapel located at the back of the statue’s plinth, three women and three generations of the same family, living in Sao Paulo, recount having planned this trip for a long time, “the first since the beginning of the pandemic ”. “For seven months, we did not leave our home, details Monica, 50, her voice charged with emotion. So it was important to come here, pray at the feet of the one who protects us, with my mother and my daughter, and thank him for being in good health. It is a truly moving moment. “

Two women come out of the chapel, one is in tears, they fall into each other’s arms. “There you go,” Monica adds, nodding in their direction. It’s very intense for a lot of us. “

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Located 710m above sea level on Corcovado, one of Rio’s many reliefs, this 38m-high concrete statue was unveiled on October 12, 1931, the day of one of the most important religious festivals for Catholics in the country, and has since become a public holiday. Its first stone was laid in 1922, to celebrate the centenary of the independence of Brazil. It took another nine years for the designer, Heitor Da Silva Costa to achieve his goals, with the help of the French sculptor Paul Landowski, responsible for creating the hands and face of the monumental “Cristo”.

Having become the symbol of Rio de Janeiro and a fortiori of Brazil, Christ the Redeemer attracts nearly 2 million tourists every year. Or at least attracted, until the year 2020 and its closure for five months, between March and August, because of the Covid-19 epidemic. Regularly damaged by bad weather and in particular by lightning, the monument was the subject of a renovation between March and June 2021, while remaining open to the public, for an amount of 3.5 million dollars (3 million euros). Two more reasons to make this anniversary a symbol.

Four days of festivities open to all

At the San Sebastián Cathedral in Rio de Janeiro, where the festivities continue for four days, we have chosen to insist on the accompaniment of those who have suffered the most. In a country particularly affected by the Covid, with nearly 600,000 dead, and while 5 million people fell below the poverty line between 2019 and 2020, there are many. Through an offer of social and free activities, Padre Omar, a great Carioca figure and rector of the shrine of Christ the Redeemer, wants to be “the extension of the arms of Christ the Redeemer who welcomes everyone, without distinction”. For more than a year, he has been working with his team on this anniversary, intended to recall that this Christ “represents for the Brazilian people, since its construction, a symbol of faith and hope”.

Clara, Luiza and Maria Fernanda, three teenage girls with rosy cheeks and eyes loaded with mascara, came to enjoy the beauty treatments and proudly wear the four new braids glued to the side of the head. “On the beach, it costs 10 reais (1.60 euros) per braid, we couldn’t have had that many! Luiza exclaims. They have class the following days, but sure, this weekend, they will be there again.

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