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start of with tallest jesus statue.
Spectacular... workers finish the head of Swiebodzin's Christ statue, due for completion next month. Photo: AFP

World's tallest Jesus creates an unholy row October 31, 2010

SWIEBODZIN, Poland: At 36 metres tall, it will tower imperiously over this town in western Poland. But the giant statue of Jesus under construction has divided Polish Catholics and led to charges of megalomania against the Catholic Church.

The structure is being built on a 16-metre-high hill in Swiebodzin. Locals claim it will be taller - just - than the 80-year-old Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, now the world's tallest statue of Jesus.

The main body of the Polish Jesus is 33 metres high - a metre for each year he lived - and is topped with a three-metre metal crown of thorns.

Advertisement: Story continues below The project has split Polish society: some are expressing pride, others derision, while many practising Catholics are calling for it to be abandoned. The chief building inspector has received threats, including a brick through his car window.

Supporters of the project, which is being led by local priest Sylwester Zawadzki, hope the statue will attract pilgrims from across the country, turning the economically downtrodden town into a ''second Czestochowa'', a reference to Poland's most popular pilgrimage site, home of the Black Madonna shrine.

The 400-tonne statue has been five years in the making. Originally, Father Zawadzki wanted a ''small garden sculpture'', but over time his ambitions have grown.

The latest worries are about safety after a crane collapsed when builders tried to position the head, crushing a builder's foot. Sceptics said it was a sign of God's disapproval. When the priest suffered a heart attack, the same claim was made.

Building experts have voiced concerns the foundations are not deep enough. ''We'll give it 20 years, maximum, then it'll fall apart,'' one building expert told Polish media
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