While you are in Havana, the Christ of the City awaits you.
Leaning out of the Havana bay with the perennial blessing sign is Havana´s Christ, another of the symbols of the city. When you visit the Caribbean capital it is one of the spaces that you cannot miss.
It is a monumental sculpture twenty meters high and its image provokes respect and reverence for tourists. While passing through Havana, you cannot stop visiting it with family and friends and take pictures of yourself in front of the vastness of the maritime and city landscape. We invite you to know part of its history.
A religious promise was the cause that today we can enjoy this wonderful work on a hill in La Cabaña. It has a little to do with the history of the country. After the assault on the Presidential Palace on March 13, 1957, the country’s first lady, wife of Fulgencio Batista, desperate and fearing for her husband’s life, promised to erect an image of Christ that could be seen from anywhere in the country city if he remained alive.
Thus it happened, Fulgencio Batista survived and the call for the contest called Havana´s Christ was launched. A commission was created to raise funds and thus pay for the winning project and the subsequent execution of the work. Martha Fernández Miranda, the First Lady managed to collect 200,000 pesos.
The Christ of Havana, an idea of Jilma Madera.
The authorship of this work is attributed to the Cuban sculptor Jilma Madera, who submitted her sketch to the contest and simply won it.
Much has been said about the controversial image of the Christ with luscious lips and oblique eyes, but she affirmed that she devised it according to the mixture of races of Cuba and in her own ideal of masculinity. Others claim that the Christ has the image of a man with whom she had an important love story.
How is The Christ of Havana?
The Christ of Havana located in the town of Casablanca, represents Jesus of Nazareth through a sculpture, the work of the Pinar del Rio sculptor Jilma Madera.
Curious is the fact that it does not have open arms like the representatives of Rio de Janeiro, Angola, or Portugal, it blesses with one hand, the other on the chest and, according to its author, has its feet on the earth.
Another curious anecdote comes from their empty basins. They say that Batista paid a visit to the place and told Jilma that it seemed perfect except for the expressionless eyes. The author told him that he was wrong and that if he had stopped to take a look just a few meters away he would realize that it was actually looking at him.
The image was made in Carrara marble and is 20 meters high. One wonders how something so large can hold 51 meters above sea level and weigh 320 tons.
But there it is, because all the measures were taken to conceive it, even the smallest details were supervised by Jilma.
The Christ is on a 3-meter base and is made up of 67 pieces that were brought from Italy. There it was sculpted and also blessed by Pope Pius XII.
Assembling the sculpture was not an easy task. First, because it couldn’t be done in one piece. In order to complete this colossal work, nearly 320 tons of white Carrara marble were used, with 67 pieces that overlap inside.
A crane and the precise work of more than a dozen men were used for this purpose. The base is three meters deep and in the center a framework of rods was raised, which are refined in the torso and in which a steel beam was inserted that extends to the head.
Each piece of marble was tied with steel turnbuckles to the central structure and in the empty space it was filled with concrete after having checked the level and adjustment of each horizontal layer.
It should be noted once again, that from its location site you can enjoy one of the most beautiful views of Havana and in which you can see the passage of large ships and the small passenger boats that transport neighbors on both sides of the bay.
It was inaugurated on December 25, 1958, with the presence of Fulgencio Batista.
It happened that a work at such a high altitude and with the consequence of electrical storms in the Caribbean, a lightning rod was not installed. But Jilma, always farsighted, brought with her from Italy an additional piece, in case it was needed at some point.
In 1961 it was announced through television media that after prolonged electrical storms a lightning strike had struck and pierced the head of the Christ in its back.
Quickly Jilma, in joint work with the firefighters, went up and was able to rebuild the damaged segment so that the rain did not damage the interior. This repair took five months. New electric shocks damaged the work. Another in 1962 and 1986 respectively and for this last one a lightning rod was located.
The latter had the support of various religious institutions that assumed the investment and execution, but was not endorsed by specialized criteria and did not use feasible materials.
Already in 2012 the possibility of collapse was foreseen and this forced a new repair. The Directorate of the Morro-Cabaña Museum Complex, MINFAR and Civil Defense and the OHC Investment Group participated in this, this time in greater depth and with the appropriate materials.
Awards and honours.
National Restoration Award 2013
The Christ of Havana received the 2013 National Restoration Award on April 18 of that same year. Awarded by a jury for the exceptional and rigorous scientific research work, for the accurate diagnosis and the comprehensive restorative intervention of a sculptural monument of exceptional dimensions and for having rescued with absolute rigor an important landmark of the city and its panorama.
It also received the ICOMOS-Cuba and DOCOMOMO-Cuba 2013 awards.
Also for its artistic values, and to become a symbol of the bay landscape and an icon of high popular roots in the capital’s identity, it was declared a National Monument on November 6, 2017.
Newspapers and coins among other objects of the time were buried at the base of the monument by its author.
To give the impression of looking at everyone from anywhere, the sculpture left the Christ empty-eyed.
The Christ wears flip-flops to put the toe, similar to those that the author used throughout the project and that were taken as a model.