Towering atop 2400 ft. tall Corcovado Mountain stands certainly Rio’s most memorable monument Christ The Redeemer (Cristo Redentor). Standing upright at over 100 feet tall, two and one half million pounds with outstretched arms and open, inviting hands, Cristo maintains a 24 hour vigil to all inhabitants of Rio.
The idea of a religious statue was first conceived in 1921 by Carlos Oswaldo who sketched out a design of Christ carrying a cross. When engineer Heitor da Silva Costa was commissioned to build the monument he enlisted the aid of Polish sculptor Paul Landowski and the design was changed to its current form and it was agreed that the statue would be sculpted in France (unlike the Statue of Liberty it was not a gift from France).
After five years of planning and sculpting construction finally began on the monumental project. Soapstone was chosen as the desired material, despite its softness, for its durability over time and resistance to the punishing elements. Workers were enlisted and in 1926 construction material was now being hauled up the mountain via the Corcovado Railroad. The same train today transports tourists to the base of the statue.
After five more years of laborious construction on October 12 th, 1931 the statue is inaugurated. Having been funded completely by donations and owned by the Catholic Church, what was considered to be the greatest monument of its time is now erect, inviting, embracing, protecting its people.
Today, as in 1931, a trip to the top is a must for any traveler to Rio de Janeiro. Traveling by electrified train thru the worlds largest urban forest is an adventure itself and once to the base escalators have replaced the 220 something steps once required to access the viewing area. At the base is a chapel accommodating over 100 people and a small souvenir shop. But it’s the viewing area which attracts the masses.
And the view is spectacular. On a clear day a 360 degree panorama of the entire city, the beaches, the forest, mountains, Favelas and picturesque sunsets, Maracana Stadium, Rio Niteroi Bridge, the Jockey Club, Botanic Garden and more.
Major restorative work was completed in 2000. In addition to a thorough cleaning, advances in corrosion protection were implemented and new lighting installed making this landmark beacon even more visible to the night viewer.
The train to the top is operated by Estrada de Ferro Corcovado departing every twenty minutes from 8:30 A.M. to 6:30 P.M. for about 10 dollars for adults. Should you decide to leave the train at Paineira station you can take a walk in Tijuca National Park, return and re-board with the same ticket. The train accesses at Rua Cosme Velho 513.
Originally given the biblical name ’Pinaculo da Tentacao’ (Pinnacle of Temptation) by the early Portuguese, its name was later changed to Corcovado because of its resemblance to a hunchback.
Located within the Tijuca Forest National Park and rising more than 2300 feet high, this visibly discernible natural landmark is known world wide as the site of the 100 ft. high Christ the Redeemer statue.
Its funicular railroad originally built in 1884 became the mainstay of construction transportation for the building of the statue and continues today serving tourists seeking to admire the eye-popping view from the top. Open daily from 8:30 A.M. to 6:30 P.M. the electrically powered trains shuttle visitors up and down the mountain at a rate of about 360 per hour. But the demand during the peak season often exceeds its capacity and waiting times can extended.
Most visitors will enjoy the comfort and ease of the Corcovado Rack Railway along with the changing scenery of the forest as it tracks its way up to the granite domed pinnacle. But for the more serious adventurer Corcovado is climbable. The south face contains over 50 climbing routes, but beware these are not hiking trails. Experienced, capable, outfitted rock climbers will relish the challenge.
Many visitors to Brazil seek out the unusual, unique, out of the way and off the beaten path experiences not found in your rudimentary tour guide. Commendable as that is, a trip to the top of Corcovado Mountain should not be missed. Regardless of how you get there.