Recently, movie theaters began exhibiting 3D digital cinema as the next big thing. But this is really just history repeating itself. It all goes back, ages ago, to when a caveman walked in with the world’s first sculpture to show off how much greater his work was than all of those old-fashioned cave paintings. Three dimensional art captures the world like nothing else. Statues, in particular, give us representations a people, creatures, and events. But, where as most art is created just “to be”, when statues are large enough they also gain a purpose. This has nothing to do with philosophy, it’s simply a matter of labor. The sheer difficulty of constructing a giant statue all but guarantees it will only be made to honor, appease, or memorialize something. Here are just a few of these amazing works of art.
It is arguably the most famous giant statue in the world, or at least the western world. As many already know, it was presented as a gift from France to the American people. The statue was dedicated in 1886 and commemorates the centennial anniversary of the signing of the United States Declaration of Independence. The Statue of Liberty also symbolizes the friendship established between the United States and France during the American Revolutionary War. Including its base, the statue is over 305 feet high.
The Great Sphinx of Giza represents a lion (some argue a jackal) with a human head. It is possibly the largest monolith statue in the world measuring 241 feet long, 20 feet wide, and 65 feet high. It is also the oldest known giant statue; it is believed the Sphinx was constructed sometime around 2500 BC. The purpose of the Sphinx, what it symbolized, honored, or paid tribute to, has been lost to time. Until the 1920’s, the Sphinx spent most of the past several thousand years buried up to its neck in sand. During that time, it was seen as a human head rising mysteriously from the sand.
The Colosso di San Borromeo located in the hamlet of San Carlo in Arona, Italy is a statue of Saint Charles Borromeo. Including its base, it is over 114 feet high. Borromeo was the nephew of Pope Pius IV, and arch-bishop of Milan. More impressive however, he is the only Cardinal to have ever refused the papacy when it was offered to him. In 1610 Borromeo was canonized by Pope Paul V. The date of his annual feast on the Roman Catholic calendar is November 4th, although the Milanese people had been celebrating him every year for decades before his sainthood. His statue was commissioned by his relative Federico Borromeo and a collection of admirers. It was completed in may of 1698.
These were two statues of Buddha built during the sixth century in Afghanistan. In 2001 they were both intentionally destroyed with dynamite by the Taliban, who believed they were idols. The act was condemned throughout the world and viewed as the epitome of intolerance by the Taliban and fundamentalist Islam. Various groups for governments have pledged their support for the statues to be rebuilt.
At 420 feet, including its base, this is currently the tallest statue in the world. It was completed in 2002 at a cost estimated to be around $55 million. It is located in Henan, China close to the Tianrui hot spring from which the statue gets its name. The statue itself may be a response by the Chinese to the destruction of the Bamyan Buddhas in Afghanistan.
Located in Rio de Janeiro this is arguably the most famous statue of Jesus Christ in the world. While there are others that are slightly larger, none seem to be as iconic. This statue is located at the 2300 foot peak of Corcovado mountain where it looks over the city with its arms outstretched, giving Jesus a silhouette of the cross. It was finished in 1931 at a cost of $250,000.
Measuring 279 feet high, The Motherland Calls is known by a number of names including Mother Motherland, and the Mamayev Monument. When it was finished in 1967, it was the tallest statue in the world. The statue wields an impressive 108 foot long steel sword and is a memorial to the soldiers who fought in the Battle of Stalingrad, which is where the statue is located. It is currently, however, beginning to tilt. Gravity is all that holds the great statue to its foundation, so further tilting could cause it to collapse.
It was lost to time over a thousand years ago, yet it is still one of the most famous giant statues in the world. The Colossus of Rhodes, built on the Greek island of Rhodes, was a statue of Helios, the Greek god signifying the sun. It towered over 107 feet high, an awe inspiring height today, let alone three centuries before the birth of Christ. It was built between 292-280 BC. Unfortunately the statue stood for only 56 years before an earthquake snapped it at the knees toppling it over in 226 BC. Its ruins laid on the ground for over 800 years, continuing to attract visitors throughout that time. In 654 AD an Arab force captured the island and it is said the remains of the statue were sold to a Jewish merchant of Edessa (though that story may be purely based on propaganda from the time).
Whether it be in honor of a person, a location, or even just an ideal, giant statues embody a cause beyond simply just existing. Small wonder then why they are so revered even today and why we continue to create them.
Photo credit: alan(ator)