Rio - Christ the Redeemer statue
You will need:
- Brazilian music (preferably carnival samba music).
- Images of Rio de Janeiro from the internet, with several views of the statue of Christ the Redeemer. (Some of the more evocative views show the statue against sunsets, thunderstorms and early morning mist.)
This useful BBC article also includes a image of an earlier design, sometimes dubbed ‘Christ with a ball'.
As pupils assemble, play Brazilian samba music and show images from the modern city of Rio de Janeiro (but not the statue… yet).
The 2016 Olympics are taking place in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro, and Rio is an exciting place. It’s famous for its music, its dancing and its long stretches of golden beach beside the sparkling blue sea. But when you see pictures of the city from above, there’s one thing you’ll always notice - a massive white statue of Jesus Christ. (Show a picture.) You can’t really miss it. This Jesus is 30 metres high, and its arms stretch 28 metres wide. That really is rather big.
But why is it there? Who made it? And what do Brazilians think about it now?
The story goes like this. Many Brazilians are Roman Catholic Christians, and somebody first had the idea to make a giant statue of Jesus about 150 years ago, as a present for the royal family. The idea was dropped, but then, 50 years later, a group of people picked it up again.
This group were really worried that their city was becoming a cruel, selfish place where people didn’t care about others or about God, so they decided to do something about it. They called themselves ‘The Catholic Circle’, and started fundraising to build a giant statue of Jesus, to remind everyone to think about more than just themselves. They asked the government to let them build it on a mountain overlooking the city.
What should the statue look like? They weren’t sure. The Brazilian president gave his permission for the statue to be built, the money was raised with lots of donations… but still they had to decide: what should this Jesus look like?
One big idea was to have Jesus holding the world in one hand and a large Christian cross in the other. Too complicated? It looked as if he was about to play football.
In the end, a local artist named Carlos Oswald came up with the final plan - to have Jesus stretching his arms out wide. And that’s the design they chose. (Show a clear image of the statue.) Why? What could it mean? What do you think it says? (Pupils discuss in pairs, then feed back a few answers.)
Well, it’s obviously the shape of the Christian cross - but can you see? This Jesus doesn’t have the marks of nails on his hands, as a reminder of his death. This Jesus’ hands are stretched out to bless people, maybe to give them a cuddle. And at the base of the neck there’s the outline of a heart, the symbol of love.
There’s a story about people bringing their children to Jesus. His disciples said, ‘Send them away!’ but Jesus told them off, saying, ‘Don’t forbid them, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to people like these children’ (Matthew 19:14, CEB).
Today, the statue is a firm favourite in the city. It’s on all the postcards and T-shirts. Thousands of tourists go to see it every year. Sometimes, it's floodlit at night with different colours - including the colours of Brazil’s national football team during the World Cup.
One of the builders said, ‘It’s a monument to science, to art, and religion.’ Science made it possible, art made it look good, and religion provided the symbol.
Nowadays, local people say, ‘It's like somebody giving you a hug - welcoming you.’ Or, ‘I'm not from Rio, but the city is in my heart, and Christ is beautiful.’
Maybe this was the Jesus that Carlos had in mind for the statue. His Jesus was a powerful Son of God who cared about everybody in the city. He was there for everybody. Rio has its sad places, its slums where life is hard, and crime is scary. The statue of Christ the Redeemer can be seen from almost everywhere.
- I wonder what it might be saying to the people who find life hard?
- I wonder what it might be saying to the athletes taking part in the Olympics?
- I wonder what the statue might be saying to you?
Show another image of the statue.
Say: Look at the statue again. Imagine what it might look like in the middle of the night, or in a thunderstorm. What about at sunrise?
Here’s a prayer. If you want to make it yours, at the end, say 'Amen'.
Lord Jesus, you said that you would be with your people until the end of time. Help us to remember that promise when we feel lost or frightened, or when we don’t know what to do. Help us to remember those great big arms stretching out to hug the world, and your love, to make us strong inside. Amen
Here’s a challenge for you to try at playtime. The arms of Jesus on that statue are 28 metres wide from fingertip to fingertip. Just how big is that? Try to measure it on the school playground.