The most famous of all images of Rio is that of the vast statue of Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor) gazing across the bay from the Corcovado (hunchback) hill, arms outstretched in welcome, or as if preparing for a dive into the waters below. The Art Deco statue (daily 9am–7pm), 30m high and weighing over 1000 metric tons, was scheduled to be completed in 1922 as part of Brazil’s centenary independence celebrations, but this symbol of Rio wasn’t, in fact, finished until 1931. The French sculptor Paul Landowski was responsible for the head and hands, while the engineers Heitor Silva Costa and Pedro Viana constructed the rest.
In clear weather, fear no anticlimax: climbing to the statue is a stunning experience by day, and nothing short of miraculous in the early evening. In daylight, the whole of Rio and Guanabara Bay is laid out before you; after sunset, the floodlit statue can be seen from everywhere in the Zona Sul, seemingly suspended in the darkness that surrounds it and often shrouded in eerie cloud. Up on the platform at the base of the statue, the effect of the clouds, and the thousands of tiny winged insects clustering round the spotlights, help give the impression that the statue is careering through space out into the blackness that lies beyond the arc of the lights – dramatic, and not a little hypnotic.