On my previous trip to Chile I learned about San Cristobal Hill. The main reason for me to go there was the Cable Car and a park. I didn’t know it would have many other attractions and such an interesting history.
Among the many things San Cristobal Hill has are the sight to Santiago from atop, a beautiful view when the day is clear (1st photo), the cable car, the funicular, the National Zoo (you have to go there and see the Humboldt’s penguins ), botanical garden, and the Adventure Park, for what I can recall.
I stumbled upon Juan Medina Torres’ narrative about the history of San Cristobal Hill. I commend you all to read this post, the historical description of the place is quite interesting.
On January 19, 1540, Pedro de Valdivia, field master of the conqueror of Peru Francisco Pizarro, in a religious ceremony held in Cusco, solemnly promised to found a city under the invocation of the Apostle Santiago and build a church consecrated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, in the territories that it would conquer. The next day, as Lieutenant Governor, along with eight soldiers and some Indians, he began the historic march to the south.
Eleven months later, the expedition with 150 Spaniards on horseback and on foot, followed by a thousand charging Indians, reached the Mapocho valley and camped at the foot of the San Cristóbal, probably in front of what is now Purísima street. The caravan was accompanied by a single white woman, Inés Suárez, and three clerics.
For the construction of the image of the Virgin, the work of the sculptor Ignazio Jacometti, who presides over the column of the Spanish Steps in Rome, was chosen as a model. The image was commissioned from the Societé Anonyme des Hauts Forneaux & Fonderies du Val d’Osne foundry in Paris. The Chilean Minister in France, Enrique Salvador Sanfuentes, paid special attention to all the details of the manufacture of its different parts, being, due to its art, size, solidity and weight –36,610 kilos– one of the main ones in the world at that time.
The image, made of cast iron, cost, including transportation expenses, 35,724 francs, which in national currency meant 22,247 pesos. Its height is 14 meters and with a pedestal it reaches 22.30 meters. The construction works of the pedestal and the placement of the statue were carried out by the Dutch Construction Company for the sum of 40 thousand pesos of the time (Editor’s Note: as a reference, the annual salary of an ambassador at the time was approximately 26 thousand pesos). The engineer Cornelio Wistenenh was in charge of the works and the different parts of the image were raised to the summit in carts and logs pulled by oxen.
To one side of the statue there is also a small chapel, consecrated to the Maternity of the Virgin Mary, where parishioners can pray, the Blessed Sacrament is permanently reserved, and Holy Mass is celebrated on Sundays and holidays.
To build the pedestal, which forms a chapel, an eight-meter excavation was made; the lower part of the plinth is much heavier than the upper part, so that the center of gravity is four and a half meters from the ground. Reinforced concrete was used, one of the most modern techniques of those years. Inside there is an altar that belonged to Pope Pius IX, when he was Secretary of the Nunciature in Chile. The floor of the chapel is 863.94 meters above sea level and 288.50 meters above Plaza Baquedano.
The Funicular and the Cerro San Cristóbal Cable Car are two means of transport of extraordinary importance in the transformation of this emblematic place in the city into a great viewpoint.
On May 7, 1923, a group of investors met in the halls of Banco Italiano to set up a company whose purpose was to “finance the construction of a funicular in Parque San Cristóbal”. This is stated in the minutes of that first meeting for the constitution of the future Public Limited Company chaired by the Minister of Italy Fortunato Castoldi and attended by Messrs. Tomaso Mancini, commercial attaché to the Italian Legation; Natalio Farinelli; Emilio Cintolesi; Bruneto Cintolesi; Cesar Andrei; Francisco Allera; Luigi Scolari; Carlos Mina; Silvio Construcci; Carlos Cariola; Sebastiano Moletto and the engineer Ernesto Boso Pezza.
After a few months of processing, on November 19, 1923, the Funicular San Cristóbal Limited Company was established, by means of a public deed before Notary Public Fernando Errázuriz Tagle. Said document stipulated a share capital of $1,200,000 divided into 60,000 shares of $20 each, which were sold to 465 people, mostly Italians.
On Saturday, November 24, 1923, the laying ceremony of the first stone of the funicular was held. On the esplanade that Plaza Caupolicán currently occupies, a ramada was set up for the guests and at approximately 5 in the afternoon, Mayor Alberto Mackenna arrived at the scene; the Plenipotentiary Minister of Italy in Chile, Fortunato Castoldi; the Mayor of Santiago, Rogelio Ugarte; ministers, members of the Diplomatic Corps and members of the construction society.
On the occasion, Alberto Mackenna highlighted the effort and collaboration of the Italian colony in the development plans for Cerro San Cristóbal.
Work immediately began on the new elevator that would allow easy access to the summit. The project and the technical direction of the works were in charge of the engineer Ernesto Boso Pezza, assisted by the engineer Juan Nelly. The architects of the stations were Carlos Landa and Luciano Kulczewski.
Finally, on Saturday, April 25, 1925, hundreds of people attended the official inauguration of the San Cristóbal funicular. The main station building was adorned with the flags of Chile and Italy and, in his speech, Emilio Cintolessi highlighted the role of Alberto Mackenna as the true inspirer of this work of progress for the city.
On November 16, 2000, the Ministry of Education issued Decree No. 515, declaring the Cerro San Cristóbal Funicular Historical Monument, considering that this complex cable transport has special relevance within the elements of the city of Santiago and that its presence has remained in force in the collective memory of its inhabitants.
The cable car
As Alberto Mackenna thought, the mechanical advances did not end with the funicular, since the dream of the visionary Mayor was to transform the wild hill into a great recreation and leisure center, which could only be made a reality through easy access and adequate transportation.
On May 19, 1977, a concession contract was signed before Notary Public Maximiliano Concha Rivas to build and operate a cable car in the Metropolitan Park for a period of 25 years. This concession contract was signed by: Ricardo González Cortes, for the construction and mining company Ábalos González S.A., Ernesto Hald Herrera, for the Metropolitan Park, Erich Krohmer Heim, for the Metropolitan Housing and Urbanization Service.
On October 20, 1978, the deed of formation of the Sociedad de Transportes Mecanizados y Turismo San Cristóbal Limitada was signed before the Notary Public, Alvaro Bianchi Rosas. The construction of the cable car began in 1979 and was inaugurated on Tuesday, April 1, 1980, after months of hard work.
History source by Juan Medina Torres.
Photographs my own.