I assure you: the Cristo Rei statue, located in the municipality of Almada, is the perfect place from where we can admire the beauty of Lisbon. And it is not difficult to get there. On foot, using public transportation or one’s car, it takes us ten to fifteen minutes to go from the centre of Almada to the Cristo Rei shrine with Lisbon at our feet. The cars on the bridge over the Tagus, the boats on the river, the bustle of a large city, all that can be enjoyed from a quiet and peaceful place overlooking it.
The idea originated on a visit by the then Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon D. Manuel Gonçalves Cerejeira to Rio de Janeiro in October 1934, soon after the inauguration of the statue of Christ the Redeemer. Awed by its beauty, he pictured Lisbon also embraced by Christ.
The beginning of World War II gave a new stimulus to the project: the idea for the construction of Cristo-Rei appeared during a Portuguese Episcopate conference, held in Fátima on 20 April 1940, as a plea to God to release Portugal from entering the war: “If Portugal is spared from the war, a monument to the Sacred Heart of Jesus will be built as a visible sign that God wishes to conquer all mankind through love.”
Portugal did not enter the war and on 18 January 1946, one year after it ended, the Portuguese Episcopate formally declared their intention to build a monument to Christ the King. The fund raising campaign intensified from that date on and the several stages of the construction were carried out until its inauguration on 17 May 1959 in the presence of 300.000 people according to news of that time!
In the meantime many works have been carried out in the shrine. According to Father Sezinando Alberto, the current rector of the shrine, “the works that have been done in the shrine are in line with the main concerns of the previous rectors, that is, the creation of better conditions for pilgrims and visitors alike.” Thus “the Almada municipality commissioned a study on the strategic impact of the shrine on the town aiming at the improvement of this area from the point of view of tourism in general and religious tourism in particular, and also suggested a few changes to the municipal plan that would allow the building of several equipments”, namely a lodging for pilgrims, a square where to hold large celebrations and a new church that has a capacity of about 1000 people. This plan also includes the requalification of the coastal area, which will allow the existence of footpaths to access the shrine from the Tagus River. For us walkers this is excellent news: one more reason to visit Cristo Rei and enjoy the wonderful view over Lisbon and the Tagus.