Some fifty-six feet below the surface in the cove of San Fruttuoso, Christ stands atop an eighty-eight ton pillar of concrete and raises his hands from the shadowy deep, looking up through the dappled waters toward heaven, as he has done more or less unceasingly since 1954.
He is eight feet tall, and forged from the recycled bronze of old sports medallions and the hulls of scrapped battleships from the second world war. Seven years before the Christ’s arrival, the first Italian to SCUBA dive drowned at this spot: the monument is both a memorial to those lost at sea and an underwater chapel for the living.
A Life magazine article from the period includes a photograph of the Christ’s submergence and this quote from then-Cardinal of Genoa, Giuseppe Siri: “The depths of the sea, which up to our century were terrible and almost inviolate, are now opening to men. Where men, the pioneers of new roads, are beginning to descend, Our Lord and Redeemer descends today.”
Seven years later, a second statue was cast from the original mold. The Genoa navy placed it in the port of St. George’s, Grenada, in gratitude for the rescue of the crew of an Italian ship which caught fire in the port.
Around that same time, a third Christ of the Abyss was cast from the original mold. It was purchased by the Cressi family, the Genoa-based makers of dive equipment, and donated to the Underwater Society of America. It received a rather splendid reception at the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago, but after the fanfare subsided, it sat for two years in storage at O’Hare International Airport. Finally, Senator Spessard Holland of Florida determined that it should be brought to the waters of a state park near Key Largo, where it stands calmly below the rippling surface of the rising seas, never once unmoored by a hurricane.