Fifty-six feet below the surface of the Mediterranean Sea, near the town of Portofino on the Italian Riviera, stands a life-sized sculpture of Jesus Christ, with arms outstretched toward Heaven in a posture of invocation.
A swimmer happening upon the sculpture might assume that its presence was some happy accident — the remains of a shipwreck containing liturgical art or a lost civilization, perhaps.
Tourists taking one of the many SCUBA-diving tours to the underwater site know better. Some, in fact, come to see the sculpture to pay their respects to those who have lost their lives while conducting research under the sea.
The underwater sculpture of Jesus Christ owes its existence to the legendary Italian diver Duilio Marcante, who came up with the idea for the underwater statue while mourning the death of his colleague, Dario Gonzatti, one of the pioneers of SCUBA diving. Gonzatti who was killed during a dive at that spot in 1947.
As a tribute to Gonzatti and others who died at sea, the sculptor Guido Galletti created the bronze sculpture. It was placed at the bottom of the sea on August 22, 1954, and blessed by Pope Pius XII, who sent a medallion with his effigy to put on it. Since that time the “Christ of the Abyss” sculpture has become a destination for SCUBA divers from all over the world.
Among the several copies of the Christ of the Abyss sculptures in existence is the one that can be found off Key Largo, Florida, in the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Cast from the same mold as the original sculpture by Galletti, the Florida version is also a popular destination for divers.