A nine-foot-tall bronze statue of Christ was lowered into 25 feet of water off the shore of Key Largo, Florida, on August 25, 1965. This submerged statue in John Pennekamp State Park, known as the Christ of the Abyss, was really the third of its kind produced from the original Italian mould.

On August 22, 1954, right off San Fruttuoso on the Italian Riviera, the original Il Cristo degli Abissi, or Christ of the Abyss, was lowered into the Mediterranean Sea.

Guido Galletti created the bronze figure, which was inspired by an idea by Italian diver Duilio Marcante. It was to depict Christ in the new realm beneath the waves, as well as a memorial for all those who had died at sea and a monument to those who continued to dive beneath it.

A second bronze sculpture was cast from the same mould seven years later. It was sunk, like the original, in the southeastern Caribbean Sea off the coast of St. George’s, Grenada. It was installed on October 22, 1961, as a gift from Italy in honour of the Italian crew who were saved from the sinking of the M.V. Bianca C, a passenger ship that had sunk off the coast of St. George’s earlier that year.

On August 25, 1965, a third incarnation, cast from the original mould, was submerged. This time, the underwater setting was near Dry Rocks in Key Largo’s John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (which, by the way, was the country’s first underwater park). The statue was given to The Underwater Society of America by the Italian dive equipment manufacturer Egidio Cressi.

After much deliberation, the John Pennekamp Park was chosen as the statue’s final resting location. It came in 1965, but had to wait until a massive concrete base was built first. On August 25, the larger-than-life bronze statue was lowered to the base, leaving the entire ensemble submerged in 25 feet of water.

It quickly became one of Key Largo’s most recognised underwater attractions, attracting a large number of divers. The statue’s top is around 8 to 10 feet below the surface, making it viewable to snorkelers.

SCUBA divers, on the other hand, get the best views (and pictures) of Florida’s Christ of the Abyss, plunging down alongside the statue as it stands, arms high, among the coral reefs an occasional barracuda or ray drifting past.

 

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