The Rio Olympic Games take place in the shadow of the iconic “Christ the Redeemer” statue that overlooks Rio de Janeiro. The statue is well-recognizable, but the depth of its significance is worth exploring.
Michelle Boorstein, the religion writer for The Washington Post, explores what the statue means to the diverse Brazilians who live in its shadow.
The statue, Boorstein notes, is also known as “Cristo Redentor.” It rises nearly a half mile into the sky above Rio.
Some see the statue as a religious symbol, while others see it as a tribute to science and art.
“But Cristo’s meaning to Brazilians varies,” says Boorstein. “Some see it as a tribute to Catholicism while others consider it a salvo against secularism. Still others in the rapidly diversifying country consider it a general symbol of welcome, with arms open wide. One of its original creators called it a ‘monument to science, art and religion.’
Cristo is an iconic image of Brazil,” Boorstein continues. “It is ‘reproduced everywhere,’ read a 2014 BBC feature, ‘in graffiti art, sand sculptures on Copacabana beach — and even on skin.’ During Carnival, there is a street party called Christ’s Armpit, or ‘Suvaco do Cristo,’ that weaves its way at the base of the mountain, called Corcovado.”
To Brazilians, the statue represents national pride, as well as religious significance. To many of the Olympic athletes, the statue’s open arms perhaps present a fitting welcome.
With all its diverse meanings to different groups, “Christ the Redeemer” is ultimately, “a religious symbol, a cultural symbol and a symbol of Brazil," says Padre Omar, rector of the chapel in the statue’s base, according to Boorstein’s article. "Christ the Redeemer brings a marvelous vista of welcoming arms to all those who pass through the city of Rio de Janeiro."
Publication date: August 12, 2016