Okay, technically he’s only 45.3 feet tall. (That’s 13.8 meters, for those who speak metric.)
But that still makes this statue, recently erected in Poland, the tallest likeness of Pope John Paul II in the entire world.
The statue will be officially unveiled tomorrow, so unless you’re already pretty close to Poland, you might not be able to make it in time. But that’s okay — the statue is expected to tower over Częstochowa (say it like chest-oh-HOE-vah) for centuries to come.
Częstochowa is Poland’s most important Catholic city, home of the Jasna Góra Monastery, which is Poland’s major pilgrimage site. Millions of pilgrims visit annually to venerate the famous icon of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa, protector of Poland, called Our Lady of Częstochowa. Maybe ordinary ladies can’t aspire to be Catholic priests, but Catholicism is known for letting one particular Lady be the patron of countless cities, causes, and inanimate objects.
Still, when less than half of Poland’s Catholics are attending services on a regular basis, the Black Madonna could clearly use some help. Like the Church says, women just aren’t suited for this whole “spiritual leadership” thing. Maybe John Paul will lend her a (giant) hand.
The statue is being funded by Leszek Lyson, a private investor who commissioned the giant pope as a gesture of thanksgiving for his own heroic act: three years ago tomorrow, Lyson saved his son from drowning. Given that John Paul II has been deceased since 2005, the former pontiff’s role in the rescue effort is not yet clear.
Lyson hopes that the statue will help inspire future generations to value their faith and to remember the legacy and example of John Paul II, sometimes called John Paul the Great amongst the particularly devout. According to Lyson, the pontiff was:
A great and good man who has done a lot for the world: ended Communism and opened borders in Europe, reached out to people in his pilgrimages around the world… [The statue] should make everyone stop and think about life.
Similar statuary projects have been attempted in other parts of the world — Santiago, Chile rejected proposals to build a similarly-sized statue, which locals dubbed “Papasaurio,” or “Popeasaurus.” Rome also boasts a statue of John Paul II, far smaller than Częstochowa’s offering at only 18 feet (5.5 meters). Lyson hopes to see the statue he commissioned featured in the Guinness Book of World Records as the planet’s tallest pontiff.
Following in the tradition of Rio de Janiero’s Christ the Redeemer and Notre Dame’s Touchdown Jesus, the mega-pontiff is an eloquent testimony to the love many Catholics had for John Paul II. Polish Catholics in particular revere the pontiff, as much for his Polish extraction as for his piety and affable demeanour.
Sadly, this decreases the likelihood of affectionately blasphemous nicknames like ‘Popeasaurus’ being applied to the statue, a great loss for Catholic-watchers around the world. Religion stops being a fun spectator sport when it’s taken too seriously.