January 14th ~ Rio de Janeiro
This was to be our last full day in Brazil and we still had some “must see” places left to visit.
Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor)
Sitting on top of Corcovado Mountain, overlooking the city of Rio de Janeiro, the statue of Jesus Christ with outstretched arms has become a symbol of peace.
- The statue is made of concrete, with an outer layer of soapstone
- 98 feet tall (30m)
- Arms extend 92 feet (28m)
- Took nine years to build (constructed between 1922 and 1931)
- Cost to build $250,000 USD (would be equivalent to $3,400,000 in 2017)
- Located in Tijuca Forest National Park
- Listed as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World
There is an escalator to take you up to the viewing platform which is right at the base of the statue. On a clear day, the views of Rio, Sugarloaf and the bay are spectacular.
In 2006, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the statue’s completion, a chapel under the statue was consecrated which now allows Catholics to hold baptisms and weddings there.
Rio de Janeiro Cathedral (The Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Sebastian)
We have visited a GREAT number of churches and cathedrals over the years.
Not to take anything away from the classic grandeur of the famous places such as Westminster Abbey in London, Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome, or Notre Dame in Paris, but sometimes seeing something original and different is refreshing.
Does this compare to these masterpieces? No, of course not, but still I give them high marks for creating a place of worship that is not stuffy. Instead this church is open, modern and airy where everyone can feel welcome.
For me that was also part of the appeal of seeing La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.
“This massive Brazilian church is built like an angular, Technicolor pyramid left by Mayans from the future…. Elaborate churches can be found all across the world, showing off the glory of God through the language of architecture, but the Rio de Janeiro Cathedral may be the only one that looks like an angular beehive from the future.” ~ Atlasobscura.com
- Built between 1964 and 1979
- Design based on Mayan architectural style of pyramids
- 5,000 seats
- Standing room for 20,000 people
- There is a museum in the basement
Selaron Steps (aka Escadaria Selarón, aka Lapa Steps)
Chilean-born artist Jorge Selarón was the master-mind behind the steps, claiming them to be “my tribute to the Brazilian people”. As a painter and sculptor, he traveled the world before eventually settling in Rio.
The “steps project” originally began simply in 1990 as a means to repair and beautify the area in front of his home. Using tile fragments in blue, green and yellow tiles – the colours of the Brazilian flag, many of which were scavenged from construction sites and waste found on the streets.
In later years, most of the tiles were donated by visitors from all around the world.
“It started out as a side-project to his main passion, painting, but soon became an obsession. He found he was constantly out of money, so Selarón sold paintings to fund his work. It was long and exhausting work but he continued on and eventually covered the entire set of steps in tiles, ceramics and mirrors.” ~ Wikipedia
- Officially known as Manuel Carneiro street
- The steps connect the neighborhoods of Santa Teresa and Lapa
- There are 215 steps
- They are covered in over 2000 tiles
- 300 tiles were of a pregnant African woman hand-painted by Selarón
- Tiles were collected/donated from over 60 countries around the world.
- On January 10, 2013, Selarón was found dead with burn marks on his body on the famous Lapa steps.
- Today the mystery remains unsolved if it was murder or suicide
Here is another article about Selarón, “Death on the Stairs” with more pictures of the colorful stairs if you are interested.
Not only were the steps flashy, but so is the neighborhood. In fact I found the dilapidated structures and bohemian culture equally, if not more, fascinating than the artistry of Selarón.
Known for their music and nightlife, the local establishments are “bursting with passionate self-expression and all-night energy” per Airbnb.
“Since the 1950s, when it began to be called the “Montmartre Carioca”, Lapa attracted intellectuals, artists, politicians and especially the people of Rio, who come together to celebrate the samba, forró, MPB (música popular brasileira), choro and more recently, electronic music and rock.” ~ Wikipedia
During the daytime, things are a bit more calm. There are unquestionably a large number of tourists, which brings out the vendors and those wanting to capitalize on those of us carrying a camera. But beyond that, there is a certain magic and mystery on the street. Impromptu music, dancing, sidewalk cafes, people watching, street graffiti, partying, all come together in spite of the rotting facade.
I would have loved to simply pull up a chair along the sidewalk and watch as life passed me by in a most vivid fashion.
But our day is flying by and we still have one more place to visit:
Known as Pão de Açúcar in Portuguese, the name Sugarloaf is said to come from the shape being similar to a traditional concentrated refined loaf of sugar.
“The name “Sugarloaf” was coined in the 16th century by the Portuguese during the heyday of sugar cane trade in Brazil. According to historian Vieira Fazenda, blocks of sugar were placed in conical molds made of clay to be transported on ships. The shape given by these molds was similar to the peak, hence the name. ~ Wikipedia
Having no idea what a “loaf of sugar” looked like, I had to look it up and found several images.
I now understand the name and think it fits! Today it is world-renowned for its glass-walled cable car ride and panoramic views of the city.
The cable car begins the climb at the base of Morro da Babilônia and stops at Morro da Urca. Here you to can either stay and explore or catch the second cable car that continues on to Sugarloaf’s summit.
The mountain which contains both Sugarloaf and Morro da Urca was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2012.
Our local guide suggested that we proceed directly to the top, and check out the views from Urca on the way down. So that is just what we did.
We also ran across several Marmosets which are not native to the area and are considered a pest. I thought they were quite charming myself 🙂
Our time in Brazil was coming to an end as we tried to take in a few lingering moments as we watched the sun set over Rio from on top of Sugarloaf and her shorter sister.
GRATITUDE MOMENT: This was a long post as we wrapped up the final leg of our thirty days in South America. The Latin culture has warmed our hearts as they shared their stories, the ever-changing breathtaking scenery, a warm cup of mate, and more beef than I have eaten in the past several years. These are the types of memories I shall cherish in my dotage, sitting in my rocker, rereading posts and staring at multitudes of photos.
For those who have joined us on our South American Adventure, we hope you enjoyed the ride. As always, we are grateful for your company, encouragement and kind messages you have left us.
We are still trying to decide where our next big trip will take us, but you can be sure there will be some RV trips to check out more of our National Parks coming soon.