1.The inspiration is born in Brazil
The idea to build the Monument to Christ-King comes up in 1934, when the late Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon, His Eminence Manuel Gonçalves Cerejeira, is visiting Brazil. Traveling through Rio de Janeiro, he comes upon the impressing site of the Statue of Christ the Redeemer in Corcovado and immediately is born in his heart the desire to build something similar in front of Lisbon. So, in 1936, the idea to build the Monument to Christ-King was made known to the Apostolate of Prayer, which welcomed it with enthusiasm. In order to be National, the Monument needed the approval and cooperation of all the Portuguese Bishops, which is finally obtained and officially divulged in the Bishops’ Joint Pastoral Letter for Lent of 1937.
1.2. Sociopolitical Context
The social and economic conditions facing the western countries after World War I (1914-1918) called for the reconstruction of the different economies, which led to financial crises as well as crises of superproduction. The fall in value of the stocks in the New York Exchange caused a deep economic recession in 1929 – which lasted throughout the 30’s – and provoked social unrest, massive unemployment and consequent poverty.
All these conditions raised serious problems to the governments of the liberal democracy, the victors of World War I, whose policies were followed by most western countries. This, together with the incapacity shown to resolve the pending crisis, led to a growing wave of dissatisfaction amongst the populations and the consequent growth of opposition forces, mainly the radical leftist movements, modeled on the growing Marxist-Leninist Socialist Movement in Russia, and the right-wing movements in Italyand Germany, the two nations most penalized by the war. In Germany, unemployment reached 43%, but, after Hitler came to power in 1933, a new policy of rearmament – which would later lead to World War II – created employment and won the German people over to this new politician who would later be responsible for millions of deaths. Also in the Soviet Union there would occur numerous massacres, namely the extermination of well-to-do farmers, the so-called Kulaks.
In Portugal, the social conditions weren’t much better and the conflicts provoked by the I Republic set out a conservative reaction, which culminated with the coup of May 28, 1926, led by the Army and supported mostly by moderate Republicans, Monarchists and Catholics of different factions. The discontent was generalized and was even growing amongst the Portuguese middle class, which had been the mainstay of the Republic. Strikes were rampant and this situation was only overcome with the victory of General Óscar Carmona in the presidential elections of 1928 and with the appointment of António Oliveira Salazar to Finance Minister. Salazar was able to balance the national budget, which won for him great prestige. Later on, in 1932, Salazar is named Prime Minister and in 1933 a new Constitution is promulgated, giving birth to O Estado Novo (The New State), a political regime under the personal government of Salazar until 1968. The national political system turned then into a corporate regime, coming to be authoritarian, nationalist and colonialist.
Neighboring Spain was going through a bloody Civil War, which began in 1936, and was also threatened by the danger of the expansion of Atheistic Communism into the so-called countries of Christian tradition, something Our Lady have already predicted at Fatima, when she said that Russia would spread her errors throughout the world (see box).
Prophecy of Our Lady of Fatima
Our Lady appeared to Three Little Shepherds, in Fatima, on July 13, 1917, Her third apparition at Cova da Iria. It was in this apparition that She revealed the so-called Secret of Fatima to Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta.
Later, in 1937, questioned by the Bishop, Lucia would reveal the content of the secret to him. Our Lady said that it was essential to make sacrifices for the conversion of sinners and, amongst other prophecies, added that Russia would spread her errors throughout the world, would foment wars and persecutions against the Church. This would soon come to pass in this Eastern European country, as well as in Mexico, where the Church would be ferociously persecuted by the country’s government.
The Church experiences the beginning of Catholic Action, for there was a need to proclaim the social reign of Christ against the prepotency of the atheistic world. Christian nations should recognize Christ’s Kingship, getting their inspiration for legislating in God’s Law.
Facing this sociopolitical context of the 30’s, the Portuguese Bishops named three reasons for the construction of the Monument to Christ-King:
1 – The obligation and need for social atonement for the universal conspiracy against Christ.
2 – A great national obligation to show gratitude for being spared from the war. Unlike other countries, Portugal, due to a singular act of Divine Providence, was living in peace and progressing spiritually. Thus the Monument would be a profound and heartfelt act of thanksgiving to Christ.
3 – The need for national restoration.
World War II begins in 1939. It was during this period that the idea of building the Monument to Christ-King took shape and showed purpose.
On April 20, 1940, the Portuguese Bishops, gathered in Fatima for their annual retreat, made the following vow: “If Portugal is spared from the War, a Monument to the Sacred Heart of Jesus will be erected facing Lisbon, as a visible sign of how God, through Love, desires to conquer for Himself all mankind”.
Portugal stayed neutral throughout World War II, not having direct participation in war actions, fact which was decisive for the launching of a fundraising national campaign to make the construction of the Monument a reality. However, due to the war, the campaign dragged. Even so, despite the difficulties, in 1941 the land for the construction of the Monument was acquired.
On January 18, 1946, almost one year after the end of World War II, the Portuguese Bishops, in a Joint Pastoral Letter, besides mentioning the 3rd Centennial of the Crowning of the Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception as Patroness of Portugal, officially declared to have promised to erect the Monument to Christ-King. From then on, the fundraising campaign acquired new vigor.
We ought to also mention the participation of Portuguese children from throughout the whole country in the fundraising campaign for the construction of the Monument, campaign which was called Tiny Pabbles and went on from 1939 to 1958.
The guiding principle of this campaign was, above all, the value of the sacrifice of children and the efficacy of their prayers.
Throughout the year children would give something up and then would turn that sacrifice into money which would be deposited into a piggybank, which later on would be placed in the Presépio (Nativity Scene) in their Parishes, on Holy Innocents Day (December 28).
It is important to mention that this campaign brought in about $7,500 Euros.
Throughout the history of the devotion to Christ and specially to His Most Sacred Heart, so full of greatness and faith, there is something worth mentioning which explains why the date chosen for placing the first stone of the Monument was picked.
Sister Maria do Divino Coração lived in Porto, the City of the Virgin, by the way. She had a lot to do with the consecration of all Mankind to the Heart of Jesus by Pope Leo XIII. The 50th anniversary of that wonderful religious event was being commemorated in 1949 and that was the reason why Cardinal Cerejeira chose that year. So, on December 18, 1949, the First Stone of the Monument is solemnly placed in the ground. Two years later the foundation work begins. Finally, in 1952, the firm Obras Públicas e Cimento Armado (OPCA) begins putting in the foundation. The work was done by means of a special system of sheathing, that is, the so-called traveling forms, in which the scaffold and the structure were the same thing in which the concrete was being poured. The pedestal of the Statue of Christ-King was thus growing layer upon layer.
The Statue was built in place; for that, gypsum forms, previously made after the model, were used.
About 40 thousand tons of concrete were used. After being built, the monument was sculpted by hand, a work of detail being done at more than 100 meters from the ground.
It is worth noting that no man lost his life during the construction of this imposing monument.
The Monument was inaugurated on May 17, 1959 (Pentecost Sunday) before a statue of Our Lady of Fatima and in the presence of all the Portuguese Bishops, the Cardinals of Rio de Janeiro and of Lourenço Marques (now Maputo), several civil authorities and about 300,000 people. His Holiness Pope John XXIII made himself present through a Radio message. At that time, Cardinal Cerejeira made an eloquent statement: “This will always be a sign of national gratitude for the gift of Peace”.
It is worth mentioning that the statue of Christ-King was conceived by Master Francisco Franco; that of Our Lady of Peace, found in the Monument’s Chapel, was authored by Master Leopoldo de Almeida; the architectonic project itself belongs to Architect António Lino and Engineer Dom Francisco de Mello e Castro.
The Monument to Christ-King is a divine beacon, a message of love, a grandiose profession of Faith!
Monsignor Moreira das Neves thus wrote:
"Sales going down the Tagus. Look at’em!
All pride and glory.
Sales going down the Tagus… In’em
Go dreams of future glory and history.
Sales going up the Tagus…Over there
Is born the rose of the Sun that illuminates’em.
Sales going up the Tagus…Who
Makes’em walk thru the divine morning?
Perhaps not the wind…Perhaps not.
As soon as the light wakes’em up, immediately the sales
Open up in the enamored sky, and there they go
As if there were an angel waiting!
Perhaps not the wind nor the light.
Perhaps nothing else but this:
The eternal call of the Sign of the Cross
Which on Earth is the sign of Jesus Christ."
1.3. Most Recent Changes in the Shrine
In 1984, during the celebrations of the 25th Anniversary of the Shrine of Christ-King, there was approved a General Plan for the grounds of the Shrine, authored by architects Luiz Cunha and Domingos Ávila Gomes. As part of that project, the Shrine’s All-Purpose Building was built; in it there are the Rectory and the Administration Office, a Chapel, Meeting Rooms and Exhibition Galleries.
In June 1999 the Shrine came under the authority of the Diocese of Setúbal. Immediate priority was given to the restoration of the Monument. Work was begun in May 2001, under the technical supervision and support of the School of Sciences and Technology of the Universidade Nova de Lisboa (Lisbon’s New University). The Monument reopened solemnly on February 1, 2001. Due to its national character and to confirm it, The Bishops Conference of Portugal determined that the Offertories of all Masses in the Country on November 23, 2003, would revert to help pay the restoration’s expenses.
In June 2004 there was inaugurated a dining room with capacity for 150 people and two dormitories for youths with capacity for eleven girls and 10 boys. On May 17, 2005, there was inaugurated the Polyvalent Hall John Paul II, consisting of a dining room for 150 people and a meeting hall for 80.
On the same day, there started to operate the Space for Youth, consisting of two dormitories with capacity, one for 22 and the other for 30 people, a dining room for 55 and a kitchen.
All these spaces and equipment were acquired to better take care of the pilgrims who visit us in organized groups, mainly for Retreats and Recollection.
In 2006 began the improvement work done to the Monument to Christ-King. On May 17 of that year, there was inaugurated the work done to the Chapel of Our Lady of Peace, which saw the collaboration of Architect João de Sousa Araújo.
May 17, 2007, saw the inauguration of Blessed John XXIII Hall, which contains eight oil paintings allusive to the Encyclical Pax in Terris by that Pope and a statue of the Angel of Portugal, all of these authored by the above-mentioned architect.
On this same day, there was placed in front of the Monument the old Tall Cross of the Shrine of Fatima, donated to the Shrine of Christ-King. Months later, on November 25, 2007, there was the turn for the inauguration of the newly remodeled Main Sacristy of the Monument’s Chapel, including the restoration of the original model of the statue of Christ-King by Sculptor Francisco Franco.
May 17, 2008, saw this time the inauguration of the Chapel of the Confidants of the Heart of Jesus, which contains the relics of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, St. John Eudes, Blessed Maria do Divino Coração and St. Faustina Kowalska. On that same day there were inaugurated the Ten Commandments in bronze, which were placed on the main face of the Monument.
On Christ-King Sunday of that same year, we saw the inauguration of a Via Crucis placed in the Chapel of the Monument, which makes every station of Christ’s Passion correspond to a situation in today’s world.
January 6, 2009 saw the inauguration, in the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, of two paintings allusive to the revelations Jesus to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque and of another one placed above the Tabernacle.
1.4. History of the change of Authority in the Shrine
The Shrine of Christ-King is, without a doubt, a historic reference for the spirituality of the first half of the XX Century in Portugal, and alsoan important reference for the history of the same century in the Patriarchate of Lisbon.
When in 1975 Pope Paul VI created the Diocese of Setúbal by the Bull Studentes Nos of July 16 of that year, the Monument to Christ-King and the Seminary of Almada stayed in the Patriarchate of Lisbon.
But we must mention that this decision was not pacific. The Minutes of the meeting of the Portuguese Bishops, in which this matter was decided, show that, from the twenty Bishops present, only ten voted in favor of the maintenance of the Monument under the authority of the Diocese of Lisbon, while nine voted against it and one abstained. Perhaps alluding to this situation, the Most Rev. Manuel Falcão, presently Bishop Emeritus of Beja and at the time Secretary of the Bishops Conference, wrote this comment at the end of the minutes: “the Bishops were already very tired when the issue came to a vote”.
With the passing of years, both the Patriarchate of Lisbon and the Diocese of Setúbal came to think that, from an ecclesial point of view, it was important that the Monument to Christ-King and the Seminary of Almada came under the jurisdiction of Setúbal, since the Tagus River is a natural border and, therefore, it made no sense that Lisbon possessed a little administrative territory in Almada. In view of this and with the assent of the Holy See, the first Bishop of Setúbal, Most Rev. Manuel da Silva Martins, before resigning, left to his successor the whole beaurocratic process finished and asked former Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon, His Eminence António Ribeiro, for the transfer of the mentioned Seminary and of the Shrine of Christ-King to the authority of the Diocese of Setúbal, which was naturally eventually accomplished.
However it was not done by these two Bishops, because, in the meantime, Bishop Manuel Martins ceased functions and Cardinal António Ribeiro died. The official handover was, therefore, done on July 21, 1999, by the present Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon, His Eminence José da Cruz Policarpo to Most Rev. Gilberto Canavarro dos Reis, second Bishop of Setúbal.
Fr. Jaime Silva, until then Pastor of the Parish of Almada, was then named first Rector of the Shrine under the authority of the Diocese of Setúbal, thus succeeding Canon Manuel Pires de Campos, last Rector of the Shrine under the authority of the patriarchate of Lisbon.
Note: However it is not known whether, due to the almost 50/50 vote of the Bishops, the Holy See – when creating the Diocese of Setúbal – left expressed in the above-mentioned Bull that the situation be maintained until the Bishops decided otherwise, which opened the door for the present situation.