Situated in the city of Almada, The Christ the King statue (Portuguese: Cristo-Rei) is a Catholic monument and shrine dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ overlooking the city of Lisbon in the central part of Portugal. It was inspired by the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), after the Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon visited that monument. The project was inaugurated on 17 May 1959, at a time when Portugal was being ruled by the authoritarian President of the Council of Ministers António de Oliveira Salazar (permission to build the monument was ultimately decided by this ruler). The giant statue in cement was erected to symbolize the gratitude the Portuguese were spared the effects of World War II.
The construction of Cristo-Rei was approved on a Portuguese Episcopate conference, held in Fátima on 20 April 1940, as a plea to God to release Portugal from entering World War II. However, the idea had originated on a visit by the Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro in 1934, soon after the inauguration of the statue of Christ the Redeemer in 1931.
In 1941 the land that would eventually be used to construct the monument was acquired. It was only in 1949, when the cornerstone was finally placed on the site, and managed by the Portuguese Episcopate. Construction started in 1949 and took ten years to complete, funded and supported by Apostleship of Prayer members. Yet, it would only be in 1952 that the first construction would occur on the site: at that time the foundations of the monument were established by Empresa de Construções OPCA (at the time, at a cost of 3.020 contos).
The inauguration of the many structure officially began on 17 May 1959, and continued during the middle of the 20th century. It was in 1984, the 25th anniversary of the Shrine, that the Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Paz was first inaugurated. In addition, a general plan was approved to recondition the grounds of the Shrine, under the direction of Luiz Cunha and Domingos Ávila Gomes, which included the construction of the Sanctuary building, that included rectory, administration, chapel, meeting rooms and exhibition galleries.
When, on 16 July 1975, Pope Paul VI created the Diocese of Setúbal under the Papal bull Studentes Nos the Monument to Christ the King and the Seminary of Almada stayed under the control of the Patriarchate of Lisbon. In June 1999 the site came under the authority of the Diocese of Setúbal, which immediately worked to restore the monument. The municipal authority was responsible for public works beginning in May 2001 to clean the area and reorganize the public spaces, under the technical supervision of the School of Sciences and Technology of the Universidade Nova de Lisboa. Following these restorations and maintenance projects, the monument was reopened in a solemn ceremony occurring on 1 February 2001. Owing to its national importance the Conference of Bishops determined that funds collected throughout the country on 23 November 2003 would be used to pay for the restoration.
In order to support pilgrimages to the site, in June 2004 new spaces in the Sanctuary building were inaugurated, that included a dining room with capacity for 150 people and two segregated dormitories. This was followed on 17 May 2005, with the inauguration of a 150-person dining area and 80-person meeting hall, in addition to two segregated dormitories, dining room and kitchen.
Improvements to the monument of Christ the King began in 2006. By 17 May of that year, the Chapel of Our Lady of Peace was inaugurated, under the collaboration of architect João de Sousa Araújo. At about the same time, in the following year (17 May 2007), the Pope John XXIII hall was opened, containing eight oil paintings by the same architect, including images from the enclyclical Pax in Terris and statue of the Angel of Portugal. Similarly, the old high cross from the Shrine of Fátima was donated to Sanctuary, and unveiled on the same day. On 25 November 2005, the newly remodeled main sacristy in the monument’s chapel, that featured the original statue of the monument by sculptor Francisco Franco, was reopened.
On 17 May 2008, the Chapel of the Confidants of the Heart of Jesus, containing valuable reliquaries was inaugurated, along with the Ten Commandments in bronze, which were placed on the main face of the Monument.
The inauguration of the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament (6 January 2009) witnessed the apresentation of two paintings related to the revelations made Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque and another, which was placed above the tabernacle. Pope Benedict XVI over flew the shrine in his apostolic visit to Portugal in May 2010.
Christ the King monument view from front and the cross offered by the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima.
The monument is erected on an isolated clifftop 133 metres above the sea, overlooking the Tagus River left margin. Originally constructed in the civil parish of Pragal, it is now located within the parish of Almada, in the municipality of the same name. It is the highest point in the municipality of Almada, on a plateau dominated by the 25 de Abril Bridge, and close to the Estação Elevatória e Reservatório do Pragal. It is accessible from Lisbon by car (over the 25 de Abril Bridge east of the crossing), by train through station in Pragal and by ferry (the Cacilheiro) over the Tagus, through the port of Cacilhas in Almada.
The monument consists of a trapezoidal pedestal of 82 metres (269 ft) height, formed from four arches with and flat platform, supporting the 28 metres (92 ft) image of Christ. Its base was designed by architect António Lino in the form of a gate, while the statue of Christ the King was designed by sculptor Francisco Franco de Sousa. The four arches of the pedestal are oriented to the directions of the compass rose. The figure of Christ, comparable to the Christ the Redeemer statute in Rio de Janeiro, forms a cross, with the arms extended out facing the city of Lisbon, as if to embrace the city. Due to issues of security and safety, the monument was sufficiently distanced from the cliffs on which it predominates. At the base of the statue is the public observation deck, at 82 metres (269 ft) that offers panoramic views of the city of Lisbon, the Tagus River and of the 25 de Abril Bridge.
Under the statue, occupying a fifth of the pedestal’s height is the Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Paz (Our Lady of Peace) with entrance to the northern facade. This space is distinctly different with masonry stone, the northern facade surmounted by cross and the remaining facades occupied by narrow doors. In the interior of two of the pillars is an elevator system with access to the terrace; the statue is 79.30 metres in height, and overlooks the Tagus (192 metres above the river).
To the south of the monument is the Sanctuary building, comprising a rectangular body of three wings, with facades covered in masonry brick. In 1987 there was a plan to construct 18 different buildings and spaces around the monument (that included restaurant, lookouts, a commercial complex, parking area and sanctuary), of which only a few of these structures were built. The most notabe was the construction of the visitors centre and Sanctuary building.
The interior of the monument is divided into various spaces, that include: a library, bar, two halls and main chapel. Two religious spaces, one dedicated to the Chapel of Our Lady of Peace (Portuguese: Capela de Nossa Senhora da Paz) and the other to the Confidants of Jesus (Portuguese: Capela dos Confidentes de Jesus), with relics, for public veneration (from Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, Saint John Eudes and Saint Faustina Kowalska, as well as the Blessed Mary of the Divine Heart) related to the revelations of the Sacred Heart of Jesus).