Colossus of San Carlo Borromeo – San Carlo, Italy - Atlas Obscura

Colossus of San Carlo Borromeo

San Carlo, Italy

For hundreds of years, this huge figure has been blessing visitors before they explore his body. 


The towering saint in Arona, Italy known as the Colossus of San Carlo Borromeo is so large that it approaches a work of idolatry as opposed to its existence as an impressive symbol of devotion.

It was built in the 1600s as the first step in a planned network of chapels devoted to the saint Charles Borromeo. While only three of the chapels were ever built, the massive hammered bronze statue was completed and has endured throughout the centuries like a religious Statue of Liberty (which is the only metal statue larger than the colossus). The towering figure stands on an almost 12 meter tall granite pillar, and is itself over 23 meters tall.

The saintly figure stands in a position of blessing with his hand outstretched to anoint all who pass under his palm. After that, visitors can actually enter the figure and take a dizzying hike up a set of metal stairs which lead into the saint’s head. Here people can peer out of the saint’s eyes and ears. Saints have been known to hear voices in their heads, but the Colossus of San Carlo Borromeo is one case where those voices are absolutely real.      

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