Chileans seem to have a “thing” for the Virgin Mary. We ran across her in many places during our trip; in churches, in parks and in paddocks in the middle of no-where. The largest one we saw was 14m (45′) tall sitting on an 8.3m (27′) pedestal and weighing a hefty 36,610kg (80711 lbs) !! This Blessed lady sits on top of Cerro San Cristobal – an 880m (2,887′) hill where she can be seen blessing the city from just about every corner of Santiago. She was made in Paris but I do not know how she was transported to Chile or how & when she was installed at the top of the hill.
Cerro San Cristobal was named after the San Cristobal family which had a quarry on one side of the hill but its original name was “Tupahue” (Mapudungun for “place of gods”). The largest green space in Santiago is on Cerro San Cristobal – the 722h (1,784 acres) Parque Metropolitano. Within the Parque is also a Japanese-style garden (Jardin Japones) and two municipal pools – the Piscina Tupahue and Piscina AntilenPiscina Antilén (where you have panoramic views of the city while you swim).
To get to the top of the hill one can either walk (this apparently takes about 90 mins), cycle, or take the Funicular train which I heard described as being like a very slow roller-coaster. The funicular started operating on April 25, 1925. There are two, and one goes up as the other comes down. The entrance to the station is much fancier than my DC metro!
I hate rides so I ventured onto this with some trepidation. The “cars” reminded me of coal cars and you just stand in them and hold on: The funicular climbs 485m (1,591′) at an incline of 45 degrees at 110m per minute (360′ per minute). Half way up is the Chilean National Zoo but our funicular did not stop there and actually it looked closed so I’m not sure if that’s an “attraction” or not – reviews I read of the zoo were rather harsh though one said it might be the only place you’ll see Chile’s national mascot, the tiny pudú deer.
You “land” at the summit station which is not really the summit as you have to then climb further to get to the top. There are great views of Santiago smog at this level and you can just make out the Andes in the background. ..
There is another “level” with Santuario de la Inmaculada Concepción del Cerro San Cristóbal (the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception)
and various other religious things: .
Then you climb a bit further towards Mary: And a bit further still ….. Inside the pedestal section there is a small chapel where John Paul II prayed & blessed Santiago on 1st April 1987 and the open air amphitheatre is used for Masses and ceremonies..
On the way back down I noticed a sign on the funicular car which says (according to Google translator): “In the car, on April 1, 1987, rose to the feet of the Virgin Mary Mother of God and Our Sea, His Holiness John Paul II, to give, from the sanctuary, his apostolic blessing to Santiago and throughout Chile, in his pastoral visit by the country ” It had been a long day for us starting with the Cementerio General de Santiago so once we left the Virgin we felt we deserved a late afternoon drink – a Chilean white wine for me and pisco sour for the manservant: