Statues of Jesus Around the World, And What They Tell Us About Religious Cultures
No matter how unified Christian principles are, its religious culture remains wonderfully diverse. Christians from all over the world have many views of Christ as the Savior and there are just as many ways to celebrate and express it. These astonishing religious landmarks go far beyond the purpose of being tourist attractions — they’re also living pieces of history that tell stories about faith, community, and life.
Here are some of the most magnificent statues of Jesus around the world, portrayed and contextualized according to their religious cultures.
Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
High up the summit of Mount Corcovado in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil stands the tall, opulent statue of Christ the Redeemer. Regarded as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, this 38-meter statue is among the most iconic depictions of Christ in history.
In the 1850s, a local priest had already suggested the building of a Christian monument atop the great mountain. It was supposed to be funded by Princess Isabel (daughter of Emperor Pedro II), but the project became futile upon the Declaration of the Republic in 1889 which mandated the separation of church and state.
At the end of World War I, however, a group of Roman Catholics began to foresee an increasing state of “godlessness” in the country. To remedy this, they began the construction of the Christ the Redeemer statue in 1926 — funded mostly by generous Christians in Brazil — and thus the colossal statue was built.
In this image, Christ is shown “on top of the world” with arms wide open. The statue is a symbol of peace, hope, and welcomeness — beautifully fitting themes for a place full of joy and festivities. No wonder over two million people from all over the world want to catch a glimpse of its grandness and perhaps partake in the revelry of the annual Rio de Janeiro Carnival.
Christ of the Abyss in the Mediterranean Sea in San Fruttuoso, Italy
Il Cristo degli Abissi, or “Christ of the Abyss,” is an extraordinary bronze statue of Christ submerged 17 meters deep within the waters of the Mediterranean Sea. It’s located off San Fruttuoso, Liguria, Italy, in the middle of Portofino and Camogli.
Christ of the Abyss was sculpted in 1954 by Guido Galletti, a World War II soldier-turned-sculptor. It has since gone into restoration projects as an effort to conserve its magnificence despite the conditions under the water.
In the 1960s, more Christ of the Abyss statues were created from this original cast (now displayed in the National Museum of Underwater Activities in Ravenna, Italy). The new statues were placed in St. George, Grenada in 1961, and Florida, United States in 1962.
Christ of the Abyss is a striking image of Christ with His hands up toward the sky. It’s dedicated to divers and sea travelers, especially those who had lost their lives at sea.
Jesus Blesses (Christ Blessing) in Manado, Indonesia
In a country where an estimated 87% of the population is Muslim, a 50-meter statue of Jesus Christ stands — mighty, welcoming, and glorious.
The Jesus Blesses statue, also known as Christ Blessing or Yesus Memberkati, is perched atop a hill in Manado, Indonesia. The statue, which is made from fiber and steel, is considered the fourth tallest statue (excluding the hill) of Jesus around the world.
Businessman and philanthropist Ir. Ciputra launched the project in 2007, hoping that it would become an icon of religiosity in the predominantly Muslim country. Today, people of different religions visit the statue — showing that, indeed, great works of art and faith serve as an instrument of diversity and unity.
The Broken Christ of the Island in San Jose de Gracia, Mexico
At 25 meters high, a steel statue of Christ stands amid the heart of the Plutarco Elías Calles dam in Aguascalientes, Mexico. But what makes it especially compelling is how Jesus appears to be broken, with an arm and leg seemingly severed. This statue is called El Cristo Roto: The Broken Christ.
According to a local legend, a Jesuit priest found a splintered crucifix in an antique shop and vowed to display it in his parish once he fixes it. But the little relic had spoken to him, adamant on being left in its broken condition. It declared that it should serve as a token of strength to the lost and marginalized.
This fascinating tale, as well as the murky history of the small religious town, brought about the construction of The Broken Christ. It’s a beautifully fitting image: The area had, after all, faced centuries of disasters and oppression. The Broken Christ stands in the middle of the waters of the city as a reminder of strength, courage, and above all, hope.
The Divine Savior of the World in San Salvador, El Salvador
In the middle of a beautiful plaza in San Salvador, El Salvador, a statue of Christ is on top of the world — literally.
The El Divino Salvador del Mundo, or The Divine Savior of the World, is a breathtaking monument of Jesus standing on the earth, on top of a towering concrete pedestal as a base. It was originally built in 1942, but a devastating earthquake in 1986 had caused it some considerable damage.
Fortunately, the statue was restored to its former glory and merged quite timely with the campaign “Lift up your soul, Salvadoran.” Decades after, the same message seems to be sent out to any Salvadoran — or just about anyone who has ever had the privilege to see the high and mighty monument.
Christ the Redeemer of the Andes in the Chile-Argentina border
One of the most powerful images of peace and reconciliation is the Christ the Redeemer statue, this time atop the Andes Mountains in the border between Chile and Argentina. The Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor) statue was unveiled in 1904, signifying the end of an arduous dispute between the two countries.
The beautiful bronze statue was sculpted by the great Argentinian sculptor Mateo Alonso and was originally displayed in a school in the Dominican Republic. However, upon a diplomatic resolution to the political conflict in 1902, Ángela Oliveira Cézar de Costa suggested erecting the statue on the border as a symbol of peace. Because of her efforts, De Costa — who had been spearheading a small Christian group — was later nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
Engraved on the statue’s feet is a Spanish inscription that reads: “Sooner shall these mountains crumble into dust than Chileans and Argentinians break the peace which at the feet of Christ, the Redeemer, they have sworn to maintain.” The politically charged Christian statue stands today as a lasting symbol of cordiality and unity between the two nations.
Monuments as a Re-Contextualization of Faith
More than mere tourist attractions, these monuments each tell a unique story of the town or the city. Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro is associated with revelries and festivities; the Broken Christ statue in Mexico stands for guidance and hope in a land once plagued with trouble.
At the root of it all, Christians know who Jesus is and what He stands for. But in these religious principles, there’s still some room for interpretation and context — and we re-purpose them based on our own experiences with society and values. These great Christ sculptures remind us that diversity and community do, indeed, color and enrich our already fluorescent religious culture.