Christianity is the largest religion in the world, with more than 2 billion followers. Devout Christians have been driven to build magnificent churches and cathedrals, start faith-based charities, operate Christian schools, send missionaries to every continent … oh, and build some really impressive statues of Jesus. Here are some notable Jesus statues from around the world.
10. Big Mountain Jesus, Montana
This 6-foot-tall likeness of Jesus is the shortest statue on the list, but has sparked the biggest controversy. Erected on Big Mountain in Whitefish, Montana, in the mid-1950s as a tribute to World War II veterans, the statue made headlines in 2011 when the Freedom From Religion Foundation urged the U.S. Forest Service not to renew a land lease for the statue with the Knights of Columbus, arguing that the statue violates the constitutional separation between church and state. Statue supporters argue that the site is a military memorial and not subject to the church/state debate. Forest Service officials opted to renew the lease, prompting the FFRF to file a lawsuit in early 2012. Stay tuned.
9. Christ of Vung Tau, Vietnam
Notable not just for its impressive height (105 feet), but for the fact that it stands in a country where Catholics and Protestants combined make up less than 10 percent of the population. Furthermore, missionary work is heavily regulated and restricted in the country. The Catholic Association built the statue over the course of two decades, finishing in 1993. It is located in the Ba Ria–Vung Tau province in southeastern Vietnam.
8. King of Kings, Ohio
This 62-foot-tall statue of Jesus portrayed from the chest up often surprised new travelers along Interstate 75 in Monroe, Ohio. It was well known to local residents, however, with some dubbing it “Touchdown Jesus” for its outstretched arms. Erected by the Solid Rock Church in 2004, the statue was struck by lightning and destroyed by fire on June 15, 2010. However, the statue was insured, and construction began on a replacement in 2011.
7. Christ of the Abyss, Multiple Locations
The original Christ of the Abyss, a bronze statue standing 8 feet tall, was submerged in 1954 in the Mediterranean Sea along the Italian Riviera. Similar Christ of the Abyss bronze statues cast from the same mold were placed in Grenada in 1961, and off Key Largo in 1965.
6. Christ of the Ozarks, Arkansas
This 67-foot statue of Jesus in the tiny resort town of Eureka Springs takes a star turn in a popular passion play that runs at the site from April through October. Dedicated in 1966, the minimalistic statue was sculpted by Emmet Sullivan, who also worked on Mount Rushmore.
5. Christo de la Concordia, Bolivia
Modeled after Brazil’s world-famous Christ the Redeemer, this 133-foot statue in Cochabamba, Bolivia, was finished in 1994. Statue supporters claim it is the tallest Jesus statue in the world, if you don’t count the 6-foot crown on the Christ the King statue in Poland.
4. Monument to the Savior of the World, El Salvador
This monument of Christ standing on top of a globe stands in a plaza in El Salvador’s capital city of San Salvador. Completed in 1942, the statue collapsed during a 1986 earthquake but has been rebuilt.
3. Christ the King, Poland
The small town of Swiebodzin in western Poland might seem an unlikely spot for the world’s tallest statue of Jesus. But thanks to the vision of retired Polish priest Sylwester Zawadski, and almost $1.5 million in donations, the Christ the King opened in 2010. The statue and base are roughly 170 feet high, making it taller than Jesus statues in Bolivia and Brazil.
2. Christ the Redeemer, Rome
When he wasn’t busy spending four years painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo found time for many other projects of lasting cultural significance, including Cristo della Minerva, or Christ the Redeemer, a marble sculpture in Rome. The sculpture actually took Michelangelo longer to complete than his work on the Sistine Chapel; he began work in 1514, and had it roughed out when he noticed an imperfection in the marble. He started over and finished the statue in 1521. It stands today beside the altar in Rome’s Basilica of Saint Mary Above Minerva.
1. Christ the Redeemer, Brazil
At 130 feet tall, it’s only the third-tallest Jesus statue in the world, but it’s certainly the most famous, named one of the New 7 Wonders of the World in 2007. Opened in 1931 atop 2,300-foot Corcovado Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, the statue draws some 300,000 visitors each year. That heavy traffic caused some consternation to Brazilian religious leaders, who worried the Redeemer had lost its religious connotation to many people. So in 2006, religious leaders declared the site a Catholic sanctuary, opening it to weddings and baptisms.