A gigantic statue of Jesus that Poles claim is the world’s largest has risen majestically above a small town, as the grandiose dream of a local priest finally came to pass.
The white statue with outstretched arms and golden crown rising above the western Polish plains in Swiebodzin provides competition to Rio de Janiero’s iconic Christ the Redeemer.
The mayor of the western Polish town, Dariusz Bekisz, claims it is now the world’s tallest.
Rev Sylwester Zawadzki, the 78-year-old priest who created the statue said it rises 108 feet, or 33 metres – one metre for every year that Jesus lived. Other members of the construction team, however, gave differing figures. One said it rises 167 feet (51 metres) if you include a mound it sits on and the crown on the head.
By comparison, the statue in Brazil’s Rio is 125 feet (38 metres) tall.
While it wasn’t possible to verify the exact height of the new statue, there was no doubt that “Christ the King”, as the golden-crowned Polish statue is called, cut an imposing sight as it was finally completed.
It has divided Poles and underlined the deep cultural divide between a deeply Catholic population and an increasingly confident secular society – with many mocking the statue project as tacky.
But many residents in Swiebodzin welcome it. They believe it will put their town of 22,000 on the map for tourists and Roman Catholic pilgrims and bring in needed money to renovate the historic buildings in the tiny town centre.
After many delays, a crane on Saturday morning lifted the arms and shoulders and slowly placed them onto the figure’s lower body. Hours later, workers hoisted on the head, which is crowned with a golden king’s crown – rather than the crown of thorns favored in Christian iconography.
Rev Zawadzki said he kept the faith all along. “I never had any doubts, not even for a minute,” he said.