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  • Cristo Redentore (Christ the Redeemer)

    By Anthony Parente

    Cristo Redentore Maratea
    Maratea, a comune in the Potenza province of Basilicata, is the only town in the region located on the Tyrrhenian coast. It is a hidden gem filled with beautiful sceneries and stunning beaches. This is why it is often called the Pearl of the Tyrrhenian. The center of the town is situated on the slope of Mount San Biagio. The area consists of 44 churches and chapels, and it is also referred to as "the town with 44 churches."

    The area is a nature lovers paradise. Situated between two national parks (Parco Nazionale de Pollino and Parco Nazionale del Cilento, Vallo di Diano e Alburni) make it ideal for hiking and biking. If you love the sea, there is 32 km (20 miles) of coastline with more than 20 beaches. There are numerous grottoes and sea caves to explore many of which can only be reached by boat.

    With all this said there is one feature that dominates the area and can be seen from miles away. Perched on top of Mount San Biagio is the statue of Cristo Redentore (Christ the Redeemer). It is the fourth largest statue in Europe dedicated to Jesus behind Christ the King in Świebodzin, Poland, Cristo Rei in Lisbon, Portugal and the Heart of Jesus in Lupeni, Romania.

    The statue of the Cristo Redentore in Maratea was the result of Italian entrepreneur, Count Stefano Rivetti di Val Cervo. During one of his trips, he happened to fly over the Corcovado Mountain and saw the beautiful statue of Christ the Redeemer looking down over the city of Rio de Janeiro. That vision was all he needed. Once he returned to his home in Florence he contacted Bruno Innocenti, professor of sculpture at the Istituto d'Arte of Florence, and commissioned him to make this dream a reality. Stefano knew that he wanted the statue to be built on Mount San Biagio, which overlooks the Gulf of Policastro in Maratea. He was enamored with the town as it was a location of one of his family's woolen mills and he felt that area would be a great tourist attraction given its location on the coast.

    The construction of the statue was no easy feat. The location was not easy to reach and not equipped for vehicles to carry the necessary materials. A new road had to be built so the large vehicles could safely navigate the terrain. This was not the only obstacle that needed to be addressed. Bruno collaborated with engineer Luigi Musumeci to ensure the statue was design to withstand the extreme weather conditions as well as the sea salt. The wind on top of Mount Biagio can reach 140 km/h (87 miles/hour) and it was necessary to design the structure to oscillate slightly to prevent damage from the strong winds. All the materials used also needed to be tested from potential deterioration from the sea salt.

    The foundation was dug into the rock on top of the mountain going more than two meters (≈ 7 feet) deep and three meters (≈ 10 feet) wide. Anchored to the foundation was over 14 tonnes of iron to ensure strength and stability. Bruno used a mixture of white cement and Seravezza marble in varying sizes for the finishing product. Construction started in September of 1964 and was completed in December of 1965. The statue measures 21.20 meters (69.55 feet) from head to feet. The wingspan covers 19.75 meters (64.8 feet) wide and the head measures three meters (9.84 feet). All tool it weighs approximately 500 tonnes and is 640 meters (≈ 2,100 feet) above sea level.

    The statue is within walking distance from the Basilica of San Biagio, which was built between the 6th and 7th century and still houses the remains of the saint. Given the location one would think the statue would overlook the Gulf. Instead, it has its back to the bay as it faces the Basilica. Both give you amazing 360-degree breathtaking views of the area. The road to get to the Basilica serpentines along the mountain. On days where there is increased tourism you will need to take a shuttle service for a fee to get to the Basilica and statue.

    Visit Comune di Maratea to learn more about the town including how to get there and where to stay.

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