A bishop ordered its construction as a
token of thanks for the sparing of his life
|Click above for larger image
It was during the Spanish Civil War, a time of blood soaked
confusion during which, even on Ibiza, churches were set
alight and priests killed. Bishop Antonio Cardona Riera,
known as Frit, fled to the hills near Puig d'en Valls and sought
refuge there. He survived and was to give thanks for his escape
by ordering the construction of a statue of Christ that,
at 23 metres high, is a mere 14 metres "shorter" than its larger
cousin on Corcovado mountain outside Rio de Janeiro...
What do Ibiza and Brazil have in common? Not a great
deal, you might think - with the exception of a few attractive
Brazilian go-go dancers in the clubs, and the
salsa music and caipirinhas that pep up the atmosphere around
the island's beaches and bars.
Very few people are aware that
there is a monument on Ibiza that is a spitting image of one of
Brazil's most visited landmarks. We are referring to the statue of
the "Sagrat Cor de Jesus" - the Holy Heart of Jesus up on the
"Puig de na Ribas" hill between Eivissa and Sant Rafel.
The figure of Jesus looks up towards the heavens, its arms outstretched,
as if it wanted to embrace the whole world. It is a gesture
full of compassion: Jesus appears to be searching for sheep
to join the flocks of his community of believers. The statue of
"Sagrat Cor de Jesus" measures 23 metres and can be seen from
a distance of several kilometres. It is an impressive white stalagmite
of cement and stone.
Hardly anyone knows this monument
exists and anyone who happens to catch a glance of it from a
distance must ask themselves: "Why is there a pillar up there on
the hill?" Only those who venture a little closer will realise what
they are seeing. "It reminds me a little of Rio de Janeiro," some
may think, and they are not mistaken.
"Sagrat Cor de Jesus, property of the bishopric, please behave
respectfully", a sign in three languages reads. The cars of a few
local residents are parked in the car park. At this early hour of
the day, everything is silent and the majority of the houses and
apartments look unoccupied. Jesus points heavenward on his
pedestal: he weighs 4,300 kilos, is over 4.5 metres high and 60
years old. "It was a great day for the people of the island when
the statue was officially inaugurated on the afternoon of 12th
October, 1947," states the chronicle of the bishopric.
On the eve of the official celebration, the bells started to ring
out in churches in communities across the island, and on Sunday,
despite the rain, the faithful came in their droves, travelling
from all four corners of the island in horse-drawn carts to watch
the ceremony. Thousands of townsmen and women made their
way on foot through the streets of Sant Antoni and up the hill,
singing, praying and waving their flags as they went. Back then,
there were almost no cars on Ibiza.
Ibiza's population has Bishop Antonio Cardona Riera, or "Frit",
to thank for the statue of Christ. "In 1936, Bishop Cardona hid for
several days in these hills and was able to survive the uprisings.
He was a member of the "Cor de Jesus" community and had
this monument built in its honour," reads the entry in the Island
The Valencian sculptor Antoni Sanjuan was commissioned to
create the statue of Christ. The pedestal and pillar were ordered
from the Mallorcan construction company, Joan Serra, the
Ibizan master builder Joan Costa led the construction team, and
architect Guillermo Moragues dealt with the structural details.
They were obviously all masters of their trade - because the monument
has been standing up to the tests of time and weather
for six decades.
Only the surrounding area has changed in the meantime: although
you can still see as far as the old city, the harbour, Talamanca
bay and Sant Rafel, many fields and farmland have given way to roads, new buildings and factories. The pine covered
hill to the left of the main road between Eivissa and Sant
Antoni, home to one of the island's main quarries, has all but disappeared.
Even the names "Puig de na Ribas" or "Puig del
Sagrat Cor de Jesus" have been updated and the location is
now known as "Monte Cristo", as is the nearby industrial estate.
There is an alcove in the lower section of the pedestal that
contains an altar. A collection of vases - some empty, some filled
with flowers, chubby-cheeked angels, images of Christ, tea lights
and candles have been placed under the large cross, proving
that the island's faithful are drawn to this place. Visitors have
scratched their names and crude hearts into the slabs of cement:
Pepe, Juanito, Paquito, Javi - all of them seemingly in the
hope that Jesus will bless their love.
Despite all of the changes that have taken place on Ibiza as
we know it, Bishop Frit's former place of refuge still gives off a certain
sense of peace and calm. Just a few feet away from the
statue, a cluster of houses and apartments hug the hillside. Tiny
alleyways and cobbled stairways lead up and down the hill to
places like: Plaza del Sagrat Cor, Plaza de Santa Lucila, Carrer
de Sant Jordi, Carrer de Sant Pere, Carrer de Sant Robert - there
are many saints watching over the "Monte Cristo". It is a tranquil
place with an atmosphere all of its own.
However, it is doubtful whether the statue of "Sagrat Cor de Jesus"
will ever follow in the footsteps of its Brazilian cousin and turn into
a tourist magnet - thank goodness. This isn't necessarily because
the statue in Rio de Janeiro is sixteen years older and about 15 metres
higher. In fact, it has more to do with the fact that tourists are
far more interested in visiting Ibiza's beaches and bars than going
to see a statue of Christ.
This does not deter the island's faithful who
plan to organise an annual "pilgrimage" in future to "Sagrat Cor
de Jesus" in memory of Jesus' love and Bishop "Frit".
For the first time ever after almost 60 years, an official celebration
was held in June, 2006 to commemorate the construction of the monument. A
short time ago, the
community of Santa
floodlights to mark its
and, ever since, the
figure of Christ can
be seen day and
night in all of its glory.
It's almost as if they
wanted to compete
with the garish spotlights
and "Privilege". Both
clubs can be seen
from the hilltop.
"It is a sign that Jesus is always with us and that his love is all encompassing. A sign that can also be seen by people working late
or who are out enjoying the nightlife," says the island's current bishop,
Vicente Juan Segura. A concept that, considering the lessthan-
Christian activities going on at night time, can certainly do no
harm. No doubt Bishop Antonio Cardona Riera would have
agreed with the underlying message, too"
So, here's how to get there: if you want to visit the statue, you're
going to have to hone your scouting skills. Follow the main road
from Eivissa to Sant Antoni and take a right towards the industrial
zone after the "Hiper" supermarket. Keep driving straight
ahead and uphill.
As soon as you see the "Carpintería Can Partit" on your left, take the next right up the hill. Don't expect to see
any signposts, but you won't need them anyway because the
statue of Christ will show you the way towards the place that
commemorates a bishop's faith and gratitude for surviving a civil
war, whose bloody aftermath was to leave no area unscathed
- not even Ibiza.