High above Rio de Janeiro, a gigantic statue of Jesus called Christ the Redeemer stands looking over the city. What does that do for the spiritual atmosphere of a city? Do the statues and memorials a city puts up in its public spaces say something, and change something, of the spirituality of the place? Does a statue of Jesus by its nature speak some form of blessing over a place?
Rio is by all accounts a beautiful city. Sandy beaches, blue ocean and incredible mountains of sheer rock combine to give it a different feel to most bustling cities. And some of the best views of Rio can be seen from Corcovado, one of the highest mountains in the centre of the city.
On top of Corcovado the statue of Christ the Redeemer, the third largest statue of Jesus in the world, stands guard over the city. His arms are outstretched in a gesture of peace, as though He is blessing the city and its 7 million inhabitants. It was finished in 1931, and quickly became one of Rio’s most famous landmarks.
What does having such a statue confer upon a place? Situated in the highest place of the city, and visible across the whole breadth of it?
In Britain I’ve often heard it said that we no longer know what public statues are for. They used to commemorate great men and women from our past – people whose legacy others did not want forgotten. Today we seem to have less of a desire to commemorate other people, so we put up giant statues to horses, angels, or to children playing on rocking horses instead. What does that tell us about ourselves?
Whilst London’s most recent statue is indeed of a child on a rocking horse (see the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square), there are a number of human statues that over the years have been placed in prominent positions around the city. These include:
- Lord Horatio Nelson – probably the most prominent statue in London, on top of the column in Trafalgar Square
- Richard the Lionheart – outside parliament
- Oliver Cromwell – also outside parliament
- Winston Churchill – facing the House of Commons from Parliament Square
- Charles I – looking down Whitehall from Trafalgar Square
- A London Dragon – sat atop Temple Bar
- Duke of Wellington – outside the Bank of England
What do these statues tell us about London? And how would London be different if our most prominent statue was of Jesus rather than Nelson?
London does actually feature the largest statue of Jesus in the UK – a life size version of Him, on the top of the Royal Courts of Justice. But we have nothing to compare with the majestic Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio.
Pray that Jesus would reign over our Legal Sphere in the capital, but also over all the spheres and public spaces we have in the city.
Mark Williamson also blogs regularly at One Rock International, a training organisation resourcing missionary leaders across the globe. He’s passionate about good films, good food, getting into deep conversations, and going for long walks with his wife Joanna.