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11 Facts About Rio’s Christ the Redeemer Statue

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If you’ve been watching the Olympics, you've no doubt seen sweeping shots of the iconic Christ the Redeemer monument overlooking Rio de Janeiro. Beyond its breathtaking views, the statue has a colorful history that’s worth exploring, and a future that could leave it looking very different from how it does today. Here are a few facts about Cristo Redentor, as it’s known in its native Portuguese.

1. IT CAME IN RESPONSE TO "AN ADVANCING TIDE OF GODLESSNESS."

Following the creation of the Brazilian republic in 1889, which separated church and state, fear began to grow amongst Catholics that the nation was headed toward a precipice. After World War I, followers felt they needed a symbol to counteract what they saw as increasing "godlessness" throughout the country. In 1920, they selected engineer Heitor da Silva Costa’s design of a statue of Christ to be situated atop Mount Corcovado overlooking the city.

2. THE ORIGINAL DESIGN WAS VERY DIFFERENT FROM WHAT WE SEE TODAY.

Da Silva Costa’s initial sketch was of Christ carrying a large cross in one hand and a globe in the other. The statue, he noted, should face the rising sun. While the design initially won over the project’s organizers, it quickly gained the playful name “Christ with a ball.” After surveying Corcovado from various points throughout the city and consulting with Brazilian artist Carlos Oswald, Da Silva Costa came up with a new design: an Art Deco, arms-wide-open Christ.

3. CONSTRUCTION TOOK NINE YEARS.

Da Silva Costa traveled to France in search of a world-class sculptor to turn his divine design into reality. He eventually commissioned Paul Landowski, a French-Polish sculptor who further sharpened the statue’s Art Deco design. Over the next several years, Landowski fashioned the 98-foot tall sculpture in clay pieces, which were then shipped to Brazil and remade with reinforced concrete.

4. IT’S COVERED WITH 6 MILLION STONE TILES.

Reinforced concrete, which had just recently been developed, was one of the few materials strong enough to support the statue and its wide-wingspan design. But Da Silva Costa and others felt concrete was too rough for the fine contours of Christ’s image. Afraid that his monument would end up a failure, Da Silva Costa found inspiration in a fountain along Paris’s Champs Elysees. Tiles lining the fountain accentuated its curves in just the way Da Silva Costa hoped to see in his design. He immediately updated the project’s plans, and eventually chose soapstone to craft the tiles. According to the BBC, workers who made the tiles frequently wrote on the back, meaning Christ the Redeemer is littered with hidden messages.

5. WEATHER HAS TAKEN A TOLL.

Wind and rain have worn away at the statue’s stone tiles, necessitating numerous restorations over the years. Christ the Redeemer is also a frequent target of lightning strikes. Although most fizzle out on its numerous lightning rods, the monument has taken some damaging hits recently. Just before the World Cup in 2014, lightning singed the back of the head and zapped off the tip of a finger, leaving Rio scrambling to make repairs before the eyes of the world were upon it.

6. IT WILL PROBABLY GET DARKER.

When Da Silva Costa decided to cover the statue with soapstone tiles, he chose a very light colored strain from a quarry near the city of Ouro Preto. It was the same stone used by the 18th century Brazilian sculptor Aleijadinho, whom Da Silva Costa greatly admired. Unfortunately, the quarry has run dry, and restoration experts are having a hard time replicating the stones’ light gray hue when they have to replace them. A spokesman for Brazil’s National Institute of Historic and Artistic Heritage recently told the BBC that when the next major renovation happens in 2020, replacement stones will be darker. "The stones of Christ are hard to find," he said.

7. THERE’S A CHAPEL AT THE BASE.

To celebrate the monument's 75th anniversary in 2006, authorities built a small chapel at its base. So yes, you can get married beneath Christ the Redeemer. However, there's limited space inside, and making the slow journey to the top (cog train to an elevator to an escalator) in full wedding attire may not be everyone's idea of romance.

8. A 2003 RENOVATION MADE THE JOURNEY TO THE TOP MUCH EASIER.

For years, visitors to Christ the Redeemer had to scale around 200 steps to get from the train station to the statue. After many complaints about accessibility, Rio decided to install a series of escalators and elevators in 2003 to make the route easier. Today, you can get to the statue with the same ease as getting to the top floor of a mall.

9. A DEFACING IN 2010 WAS DEEMED A NATIONAL CRIME.

A couple of acrobatic graffiti artists scaled the statue while it was being renovated and wrote all over the head, arms, and chest. Rio’s mayor, Eduardo Paes, called the act a "crime against the nation." The vandals eventually turned themselves in.

10. A CROSS OR INVITING A HUG? DEPENDS ON HOW YOU LOOK AT IT.

Rather than depict Christ carrying a cross, Da Silva Costa designed the figure to resemble a cross with his outstretched arms. Scholars have noted that this symbolizes a bridge between traditional depictions of Christ, which typically showed him nailed to or carrying a cross, and modern ones. Today, Brazil is a much more religiously diverse nation, and many view the statue’s gesture as one of welcoming and peace. In 1969, Brazilian artist Gilberto Gil wrote a song inspired by the monument called "That Hug" ("Aquele Abraço").

11. IT’S ONE OF THE SEVEN NEW WONDERS OF THE WORLD.

In 2007, more than 100 million people voted on the New Seven Wonders of the World from a list of 21 finalists (the competition was put on by the New Open World Corporation, so take that for what you will). Christ the Redeemer made the cut, along with the Great Wall of China, Machu Picchu, and the Roman Colosseum. Sorry Eiffel Tower—maybe next time.

All images via Getty.

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Long-Closed Part of Westminster Abbey to Open to the Public for the First Time in 700 Years
The triforium in 2009
The triforium in 2009
Peter Macdiarmid, Getty Images

On June 11, 2018, visitors to London's Westminster Abbey will get a look at a section of the historic church that has been off-limits for 700 years. That’s when the triforium, located high above the abbey floor, will open to the general public for the first time as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries, according to Condé Nast Traveler.

The 13th-century space, located 70 feet above the nave floor, had previously been used for abbey storage. (One architecture critic who visited before the renovation described it as a “glorified attic.”) After a $32.5 million renovation, it will now become a museum with killer views.

The view from the triforium looking down onto the rest of Westminster Abbey
The view from the triforium looking down toward the ground floor of the abbey
Dan Kitwood, Getty Images

To access the area, which looks out over the nave and altar, architects built a new tower, the abbey’s first major addition since 1745. The 80-foot-tall, window-lined structure will provide brand-new vantage points to look out on surrounding areas of Westminster. Inside the triforium, the windows of the galleries look out onto the Houses of Parliament and St. Margaret’s church, and visitors will be able to walk around the upper mezzanine and look down onto the ground floor of the abbey below.

The museum itself will show off objects from Westminster Abbey’s history, such as a 17th-century coronation chair for Mary II and an altarpiece from Henry III’s reign, when the triforium was first constructed. Oh, and it will also display Prince William and Kate Middleton’s marriage license, for those interested in more modern royal history.

[h/t Condé Nast Traveler]

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Steinar Skaar / Statens vegvesen
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A Look at One of Norway's Most Beautiful Public Bathrooms
Steinar Skaar / Statens vegvesen
Steinar Skaar / Statens vegvesen

In Norway, beautiful architecture isn’t limited to new museums and opera houses. The country also has some incredible bathrooms, thanks to a program called the National Tourist Routes, which commissions architects to design imaginative, beautiful rest stops and lookout points to encourage travel in some of the country’s more remote areas.

One of the latest projects to be unveiled, as Dezeen alerted us, is a high-design commode in the northern Norwegian municipality of Gildeskål. The newly renovated site located along the Norwegian Scenic Route Helgelandskysten, called Ureddplassen, was recently opened to the public.

Bench seating outside the restroom, with mountains in the background
Lars Grimsby / State Road Administration

A view up the stairs of the amphitheater toward steep mountains
Steinar Skaar / Statens vegvesen

Designed by the Oslo-based designers Haugen/Zohar Architects and the landscape architects Landskapsfabrikken AS, the site includes an amphitheater, a viewing platform, and of course, a beautiful restroom. The area is a popular place to view the Northern Lights in the fall and winter and the midnight sun in the summer, so it sees a fair amount of traffic.

The site has been home to a monument honoring victims of the 1943 sinking of a World War II submarine called the Uredd since 1987, and the designers added a new marble base to the monument as part of this project.

A view of the monument to the soldiers lost in the sinking of the Uredd
Steinar Skaar / Statens vegvesen

Now, travelers and locals alike can stop off the highway for a quick pee in the restroom, with its rolling concrete and glass design, then plop down on the steps of the amphitheater to gaze at the view across the Norwegian Sea. It’s one rest stop you’ll actually want to rest at.

[h/t Dezeen]

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