First They Crucify Him…

Then they drown the poor sod!

The nine foot bronze sculpture symbolizes peace of mankind from its unusual setting – beneath the ocean. It is known as Il Christo Degli Abissi or, in English, Christ of the Abyss.

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The sculpture was created by Guido Galletti after an idea of Italian diver Duilio Marcante. The statue was placed near the spot where Dario Gonzatti, the first Italian to use SCUBA gear, died in 1947. It depicts Christ offering a blessing of peace, with his head and hands raised skyward.

In 1961, the second casting from the original Galletti mold was placed in St. George’s Harbor in Grenada to commemorate those saved from the Italian ship Bianca C. which caught fire and sank in the harbor. The third casting was commissioned by Italian dive equipment manufacturer, Egidio Cressi, and donated to The Underwater Society of America.

A third bronze from the original mould was presented to the Underwater Society of America in New York in 1962. On August 25, 1965 it was placed approximately in 25 feet of water off the coast of Key Largo, Florida. It is located around Dry Rocks, around six miles east of Key Largo in the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. While the statue weighs around 260 kg, the concrete base to which it is attached weighs about 9 tons.

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The original clay statue minus the hands was located in a foundry in 1993. This is now on display with replacement hands at the National Museum of Underwater Activities in Ravenna, Italy.

Due to increasing amounts of corrosion and the growth of crustaceans, the statue was removed from the water and restored in 2003. A hand that had been detached by an anchor was also replaced. The statue was returned to the water with a new base on 17 July 2004.

The plaque was attached decades after the dedication without authorisation and fell off in 2007. There is some question whether Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary will reattache it as it was not part of the original sculpture. The plaque read:

If I take the wings of the morning
And swell in the uttermost
parts of the sea,
Even there your hand will lead me
and your right hand hold me fast.
1927 ~ In memoriam ~ 1988
Michael M. Kevorkian

Michael Kevorkian was a Miami dive shop operator who operated dive tours out of Key Largo. The story is that later dive operator Spencer Slate had the plaque made and attached to the statue’s base in the 1990s.

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