EFEEncantado, Brazil

On a hill in southern Brazil workers have been assembling the metal skeleton of a huge statue for a little over a year. It's the so-called "Christ the Protector," a monument rising 43 meters (141 feet) high and intended to combine religious devotion with tourism promotion.

The statue is being promoted as one of the "largest in the world" and pays homage to Jesus of Nazareth, along with a similar one inaugurated in 2010 in the Polish city of Swiebodzin standing 52 meters (171 feet) high and the "tallest one in Brazil" - the "Christ the Redeemer" statue in Rio de Janeiro, which is five meters (16.5 feet) higher.

The monument is the result of a project by the Friends of Christ Association, a non-profit organization made up of volunteers that says it is guided only by "faith and devotion" and has gathered the 2 million reais (about $364,000) it estimates the statue will cost exclusively from private donations.

In recent weeks, the metallic framework of the statue, which will be covered with concrete, has begun to take shape, and the open arms - like those of Christ the Redeemer in Rio and measuring 36 meters (118 feet) between the hands - and the head have already been installed.

The structure, very similar to the Rio statue, was designed by sculptor Genesio Gomes de Moura and his son Moises Markus Moura, and calculations are that the finished work will require some 1,400 tons of cement, of which 40 tons will be used for the head alone.

Erecting the statue has been under way for a little over a year on the Morro de las Antenas hill some 400 meters (about 1,300 feet) above sea level and with an impressive view of Garibaldi Bay and the city of Encantado with its 22,000 inhabitants located 144 kilometers (89 miles) north of Porto Alegre, the capital of Rio Grande do Sul state.

The project has been backed from the start by former Encantado Mayor Adroaldo Conzatti, who died last March from Covid-19 at age 81.

Conzatti's idea was to promote Encantado as a site of "devotion and faith," but also to give a push to religious tourism throughout the Taquari Valley region, which includes 36 municipalities founded in the mid-19th century with the heavy influence of Italian and German immigrants.

Many people saw the initiative as almost a "competition" with Rio's Christ the Redeemer, which was erected on the summit of Corcovado Mountain in 1931, and since then it has been one of Brazil's most famous postcard pictures.

That fact gave rise to a series of comments exchanged on the social networks between the mayors of Encantado (Jonas Calvis) and Rio (Eduardo Paes).

"Building statues ie easy. But let's see who has this view," said Paes, providing an aerial photo showing Christ the Redeemer overlooking Guanabara Bay, along with a large portion of the local beaches and the city of Rio de Janeiro.

"No question. Rio de Janeiro remains pretty and the whole world knows it. But come to get to know Christ the Protector of Encantado and the beauty of the Taquari Valley," responded Calvis, at which Paes promised to attend the statue's inauguration scheduled for late 2021.

EFE