Poland: Priest's giant statue is 'world's tallest Christ'

The giant statue of Jesus in Swiebodzin, Poland. Photo / Creative Commons image by Wikimedia user ProhibitOnions
The giant statue of Jesus in Swiebodzin, Poland. Photo / Creative Commons image by Wikimedia user ProhibitOnions

Soaring 36m towards the heavens, the Christ of Swiebodzin in Poland wears a crown of gold and, as of this weekend, has dethroned the landmark Jesus of Rio de Janeiro as the world's tallest statue of Christ.

The town's Catholic priest, Sylwester Zawadzki, who launched the project five years ago, described the statue as the work of his life.

"My first vocation was to become a priest, my second was to build the statue," Zawadzki said.

Zawadzki watched anxiously on Saturday as workers mounted the final pieces of the Christ figure, arms stretched wide and a massive head, using an enormous crane brought in especially for the extra-hefty load.

The white-robed figure - located 50km from the Polish-German border and visible from the A2 highway linking Warsaw and Berlin - weighs in at an estimated 440 tonnes.

A group of faithful huddled in the rain applauded and chanted "thank you, thank you" towards Zawadzki as the head was mounted in place.

Then, facing the figure, they prayed and sang religious hymns.

"I didn't especially mean to build the world's tallest Christ," Zawadzki said.

He said the 3m-high golden crown brought the total height to 36m, 3m higher than the Jesus of Rio.

"I just wanted it to measure 33m like the 33 years that Christ was alive."

The statue rests on a mound of earth 16m high and its arms stretch 24m.

Like the robed Christ figures in Concordia, Bolivia, and in Rio de Janeiro, the statue of Swiebodzin is entirely white - but it is the golden crown that distinguishes the Polish Jesus.

"This will symbolise Swiebodzin - our priest has made a second Czestochowa," said resident Izabela Sawicz, 32, referring to the famous shrine of the Black Madonna in the southern Polish city, the most important destination for religious pilgrimages in this devoutly Catholic country.

"This is a very good investment. This will promote the town and attract tourists," says Edmund Miara, a local government official, while stressing no public money was spent on the statue.

Zawadzki has refused to divulge the price tag attached to the world's tallest Christ figure, saying only that is was financed by private donations collected both in Poland and abroad.

A source close to the project said it cost about €1 million (NZ$1.8 million).

Some locals think it is a waste of money.

"I don't understand. With all this money, we would have done better to build an elementary school," said Jarek, 41, from a nearby village.

"This is an exaggeration."

The location of the statue, in open fields in front of a supermarket and near the highway, has also sparked criticism.

But to Zawadzki it doesn't matter.

"He will be the greatest preacher of the faith. Europe needs preachers like Christ," he said, visibly moved.

- AAP

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