Before you start worrying, I haven’t found god. Or at least, I’ve only found a gigantic stone effigy of one.
I had visitors here from Poland, my former home, a couple weeks ago. The really great thing about visitors, is that it makes me get off my comfy chair (from which I’m writing this very post) and go out and see some of the amazing stuff that I take for granted, having been here more than a year and a half already. One thing they were very keen to see – and something I’ve never seen myself – was Cristo Rei, the statue of Christ the King.
The first of these statues, I was informed on my visit, was in fact built in Madeira. Not far outside the main city of Funchal, a small statue of Jesus stands, arms open, looking down at the citizens below. The statue there stands at the height of just a few metres above the mountain. On a visit to Madeira, a clergyman from the new-money (at the time) city of Rio do Janeiro decided he would get in on the act and had the enormous, imposing Christ the Redeemer statue built. I’ve never been to Brazil, but just from my experience of photos, TV & video games featuring the statue that it’s one of the world’s most iconic. Someone who was absolutely in agreement with that was the bishop of Lisbon and he decided that he would build an equally impressive statue here in Lisboa. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough money for a statue quite on the scale of that from Rio but, nevertheless, with its dramatic setting on the south bank of the river, atop the hillside and nestling alongside the 25th April bridge, Cristo Rei remains one of the most iconic sights of the city. It remains one of my favourite things on flights home to Lisbon, to look out of the window of the plane and see Jesus, arms open, before cruising over the bridge, the city’s palaces, and more. The chance to see the statue up close – and that view – was one I jumped at!
The easiest way to arrive at the statue from the north bank is to take the boat to Cacilhas, the closest ferry port to old Almada, where the statue is located. From here it’s a bit of a walk along the gently inclined roads up through Almada itself until you come to the edge of the Park of Peace itself, where the statue stands. It’s worth mentioning here that the park itself is completely free of charge to enter. There is a restaurant to one side (which we didn’t visit) and the stations of the cross are situated around the park’s perimeter. But the main reason people go is for the view. Even without making the ascent to the foot of the Cristo Rei statue, here you can find one of the best views of Lisbon, and especially the bridge, possible.
But we weren’t here to stop in the garden. So up we went in the elevator to the feet of Cristo Rei. The cost of the elevator is an extremely reasonable 4 euros per person. I think it may be less if you’re a student or a pensioner. To say it’s worth it is a huge understatement. The elevator goes up about 80% of the way to the top and then you have to walk, single file, up a spiral staircase of narrow steps. Finally you come out into one of the tackiest souvenir shops in the world, with figurines of Cristo Rei in all manner of semi precious stones, in the most bizarrely unnatural colours, which I’m sure is fine if you like that sort of thing. We ignored the tat and went straight out to the viewing platform and were pretty much dumbstruck for the first couple of minutes. The distances you can see – we were lucky as it was a very clear day – in all directions are immense. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.