El Cristo De La Habana
Opposite the harbour from Old Havana, Located on a hill in the Regla municipality, stands El Cristo de la Habana (the Christ of Havana), a massive marble statue of Jesus Christ that over the decades has become an icon of the city.
Arguably the world’s second most famous Christ statue after Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer, this 20 metre tall piece by Cuban sculptor Jilma Madera towers to a height of nearly 80 metres above the harbour thanks to the hill upon which it stands. Weighing in at nearly 300,000 kilograms, it’s worth a visit for the sculpture itself but also for the incredible panoramic view of the city—specifically Old Havana—that its lookout point offers.
The Story of the Christ of Havana
In 1953, the Cuban government of Fulgencio Batista commissioned the local sculptor Jilma Madera for a statue of Christ to overlook Havana Harbour. She immediately got to work on the statue, using 67 blocks of Carrara marble imported from Italy. Before they left their home country, the pieces were blessed by Catholic Pope Pius XII himself.
She worked on the statue for several years, and as 1958 was winding down, the piece was finally complete. So, on December 24th of that year, the Christ of Havana was officially inaugurated by the Batista government. As it would turn out, this would be one of Batista’s final acts as Cuba’s leader. On January 8th, 1959—just two weeks later—Fidel Castro and his rebels entered the city of Havana.
Two years after this momentous occasion, a lightning bolt struck the Christ of Havana, damaging its head—the original design had neglected the seemingly obvious feature of a lightning rod for the statue! Cuba’s new government commissioned Madera again to fix her own work, and the Christ was quickly repaired back to its former condition.
The Christ Today
An icon of the city, the Christ of Havana had slowly been deteriorating due to simple exposure for many years. Luckily, visitors to the Christ today will bear witness to a like-new statue—a ten-month restoration project concluded in early January of 2013 has brought the Christ back to its former glory.
Reachable either by road or by a short ferry ride from Old Havana followed by an uphill walk, the Christ of Havana is both a destination in and of itself and an excellent spot from which to take in a panoramic view of the harbour and the city as a whole—particularly Old Havana across the water.
When you visit the Christ of Havana, make sure to take plenty of pictures—and if you’d like, try to convince your less-observant friends and family that you made a side trip to Brazil during your Cuba holiday!
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Visitors to the Plaza de San Francisco de Asis in Old Havana, Cuba will be delighted by the history, artwork, and acoustics of the Basilica de San Francisco de Asis, which is home to the Museo de Arte Religioso and Camerata Romeu (an exclusive female orchestra). Catch one of the amazing musical performances or tour the convent to see memorials of notable people of the past and truly appreciate the grand columns and stone flooring in this Catholic Franciscan place of worship.
At the heart of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and at the end of a short hike from Gran Piedra (Santiago de Cuba), Cafetal La Isabelica is an open air museum dedicated to Cuba's important coffee production. Learn how French farmers fleeting Haiti turned Cuba's south-eastern provinces into the main coffee growing region of the island.
The mystery hidden within its walls, secrets left untold until modern times, and its title as one of the oldest star forts in the Americas make Castillo de la Real Fuerza a must-see stop on your tour of Havana, Cuba. You'll love making your way through the paths to the centre of the fortress, which was originally built for keeping watch for invaders. At more than 400 years old, you'll have plenty to talk about when you return home after visiting this astonishing site and its impressive layout.
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