The statue of Jesus in Swiebodzin, Poland isn’t solely a national tribute to the Christian faith. It’s also a national landmark. Named, Christ The King, it’s the tallest statue of Jesus in the world. Including its base, the statue is one hundred seventy-two feet (fifty two and a half meters) tall. Since its completion in 2010, the statue has been featured in 10 Most Today’s, “Ten Most Famous Jesus Statues in the World” in 2013 and SpiritualRay’s “Fourteen Most Famous Statues of Jesus Around the World” in 2018. That same year, media interest in the statue experienced a second coming for another reason. The world’s tallest Jesus statue also became the only Jesus statue with its own antennae and WiFi connection.
Though he is now retired, Polish priest, Sylwester Zawadski, a former parish priest for the town of Swiebodzin’s Divine Mercy Parish, conceived and led the construction of the statue, for which many of the roughly twenty-one thousand residents of Swiebodzin, as well as devout Catholics abroad, collectively donated the equivalent of one-and-a-half million U.S. dollars to build. Zawadski also conceived and arranged the installation of the antennae and WiFi transmitters. The parish would not give interviews about either the statue, the antennae, or the WiFi connection, and the undisclosed Internet provider told the Polish website, Slavorum, that the priest wanted a parish Internet connection that he could monitor. The parish allowed journalists to publish photos captured by a drone flying around the statue. The photos showed transmitters installed in the head of the statue, as well as in Christ the King’s royal crown. In accordance with the priest’s wishes, a video surveillance system was also installed in the head of the statue. Though the parish would not disclose any details of its contract with the Internet provider, it insured any journalists who inquired that both the statue’s WiFi connection and its surveillance system were entirely legal.
Intially, the parish denied the statue had an Internet connection. Perhaps this was because its officials didn’t want to be perceived as using a religious symbol for a potentially controversial purpose, whether that purpose was providing WiFi access to tourists for Swiebodzin’s commercial benefit or monitoring parishioners’ Internet usage inside the church. Christ the King does draw faithful visitors. The year the statue was completed, fifteen thousand Christian tourists came to see it. Still the building and monetizing of the statue were not without controversy. Poland has a clear Catholic majority. Thirty-six million six hundred seven thousand Poles identify as Catholic. This number includes baptized infants, and it accounts for over ninety-seven percent of Poland’s population. Since the nation’s Catholic majority gives considerable influence to local Catholic churches, criticism of their practices is often muted. Some said the money raised to build the statue should have been used to build schools, hospitals, or roads. However, opposition wasn’t limited to non-Catholics. Christ the King still stands, but his WiFi antennae doesn’t. Due to parishioners’ protests, the bishop ordered its removal in 2018.