Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by phoenix. phoenix Wonders, “What is the Rio statue there for?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, phoenix!

Have you ever watched the Olympics? What’s your favorite Olympic game? Is it gymnastics? Soccer? Swimming? Sculpture?

Wait. Sculpture? That’s right! Believe it or not, sculpture used to be an Olympic event. In fact, the Olympics held a full art competition. It had architecture, literature, music, painting, and sculpture. The winners got gold, silver, and bronze medals.

The Olympic art competition lasted from 1912 until 1948. All art in the event was based on sports. Many well-known artists from around the world were recognized for their talents. One of the most famous Olympic artists was French sculptor Paul Landowski.

Landowski won the 1928 gold medal for his statue, “Boxeur.” The sculpture was inspired by his past experiences with boxing for sport. However, Landowski’s most famous work wasn’t the one that won him Olympic gold.

Instead, Landowski is best known for his work on Christ the Redeemer. In Portuguese, that’s “Cristo Redentor.” That’s what they call it in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which is the statue’s home. Have you been to Rio to see Christ the Redeemer? If so, you know that it’s a striking sight.

Landowski worked with Brazilian engineer Heitor da Silva Costa and artist Carlos Oswald to make Christ the Redeemer. The first stone of the statue was laid in 1922. It was the 200th anniversary of Brazil’s independence from Portugal. Major construction began in 1926. By 1931, the statue was complete.

Christ the Redeemer is the largest art deco statue in the world. That’s a style of art marked by bold geometric shapes. The statue is 98 feet tall. It also stands on a 26-foot pedestal. That makes the entire structure just under 125 feet tall. 

Christ the Redeemer stands at the top of Corcovado Mountain (2,300 feet) with its arms spread wide. Some see the statue as a symbol of welcome. It certainly greets visitors to Rio de Janeiro. People can see the statue from any place in the city.

Being on top of a mountain, Christ the Redeemer is at risk of damage from bad weather. In fact, the statue is struck by lightning several times a year. It goes through countless storms and even the rare hurricane. Builders have made many repairs to the statue over the years.  

Would you believe that Paul Landowski never saw his most famous creation in person? He sculpted each piece of the statue separately. Then, he shipped them to Brazil. There, the pieces were reproduced in soapstone and concrete. However, Landowski never visited Brazil. That means he never saw the finished product.

However, Christ the Redeemers has plenty of other visitors. It welcomes over 1.8 million people each year. In 2002, builders added escalators and elevators to make it more accessible. The statue’s fame has only grown over time. It was even named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007. 

Few realize that Christ the Redeemer was sculpted by an Olympic artist! What do you think about the Olympic art competition? Would you like to see it return? Would you join in the competition?

Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, C3.D2.Geo.2, C3.D2.Geo.3, C3.D2.Geo.4, C3.D2.Geo.8, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.W.8, CCRA.W.9, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10

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