Small town, big Jesus

I read with interest, and with mixed reactions, about the small Polish town of Swiebodzin, where they have just erected what they claim is the largest statue of Jesus in the world.

My first reaction was appreciation for the overall appearance of the statue. The face has a kingly look to it, fitting for a “Christ the King” statue. I would have thought a golden crown might look gaudy, but instead it looks just right, atop the giant white statue.

My second reaction was curiosity. How do they make such a gigantic statue, and how do they get it up there? A few weeks ago at work, we had a “Cultural Lunch” at which we had Brazilian foods prepared by our Brazilian co-workers, and one of them gave a brief presentation on their country and culture. Of course one photo showed the Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking Rio de Janeiro, and I found myself wondering how in the world they had constructed it.

Well, I still don’t know how the one in Rio was made (though I’m sure I could look it up – I did learn that it is made of reinforced concrete, with soapstone for the outer layers). But I found pictures showing the Swiebodzin construction site as the statue was erected, piece by piece. I’m still curious what it is made of, and whether it will stay white (and whether or how it can be cleaned). 

I was somewhat surprised to learn how much smaller it is than the Statue of Liberty. (Look here to see size comparisons of various statues.) The Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio certainly looks very large, though I suppose that is in part due to the angle, looking up at it from the city or down on the city from above and behind the statue. The Statue of Liberty, on the other hand, is at the same level as New York City, and is set far enough away that it is harder to see its size relative to other objects.

I was also surprised to read that a lot of people in Polish society think that this new statue is tacky. I have always thought of Poland as such a devoutly Catholic society. Much of their population still is, but the secularists are apparently growing in influence, and they can hardly welcome their country being known as the one with the biggest Jesus statue.

Then there is the question of why, exactly, the statue was built. It was the dream of a local priest, though initially he envisioned something smaller. I assume his motives are religious, though for many others in the town, the hope is for lots of tourism and lots of money for their town. Having lived in an area (in Michigan) where the local economy depended on tourism, I am somewhat cynical about what this will do to the town even if it does bring in the hoped-for revenues.

Somehow I have trouble seeing Jesus as being pleased to have a gigantic statue made of him so that people can book more hotel rooms and sell more postcards. Some will travel there out of religious motivation rather than mere curiosity, but I’m sure there are better ways to increase religious devotion than looking at a big statue.

Still, if I happened to be near Swiebodzin, I’m sure I’d want to stop by to get a good look.

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