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The Christ of the Abyss Statue in Key Largo, Florida Was a Gift to US Divers

Samantha Franco
Photo Credit: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times / Getty Images

A nearly 10-foot-tall bronze statue of Christ standing in an offering of peace rests underwater in Key Largo, Florida. The statue, weighing around 260 kilograms, gestures to tourists to look up toward the sky. Not the first of its kind, it has become one of the area’s most famous underwater tourist attractions.

Memorials beneath the water’s surface

Bronze mold of the Christ of the Abyss statue on display
Photo Credit: Emilio Roggero / Wikimedia Commons CC0 1.0

The first Il Cristo degli Abissi was a clay mold created by Guido Galletti, from which a bronze statue was produced. The piece was inspired by Italian diver Duilio Marcante, considered the father of Italian diving instruction. It was made in the likeness of Christ, raising his arms and face toward the sky.

The statue was lowered into the Mediterranean Sea on August 22, 1954, near where Dario Gonzatti, the first Italian to use SCUBA gear, died in 1947. The sculpture serves as a memorial for those who’ve lost their lives at sea, as well as a monument for those who wish to explore it through diving.

Seven years later, a second bronze statue of Christ of the Abyss was made from the original mold and gifted to Grenada. It was a gesture of thanks for their help in saving the Italian crewmen aboard the M.V. Bianca C, which had sunk off the coast earlier that year. On October 22, 1961, it was submerged off the southeastern coast of the Caribbean Sea, near the port of St. George’s.

The third Christ of the Abyss wasn’t erected for four years

Christ of the Abyss statue on the ocean floor
Photo Credit: 巫迪文 / Wikimedia Commons CC BY 3.0

The third statue of Christ of the Abyss, also created from the original mold, was presented to the United States as a gift from the Italian dive equipment manufacturer Edigio Cressi. It was gifted to the Underwater Society of America in 1962 in New York.

However, New York wouldn’t serve as the statue’s resting place. Instead, it was shipped to Chicago, Illinois by boat, where it was prepared for unveiling at the society’s annual convention at the Palmer House Hotel. After much debate, officials settled on Key Largo, Florida for its resting place.

One of the most popular underwater tourist attractions in America

Snorkeler swimming around the Christ of the Abyss statue
Photo Credit: Sebastian Carlosena / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

After traveling and arriving in Florida in 1965, the Christ of the Abyss statue couldn’t be placed underwater right away. A massive concrete base, weighing approximately nine tons, had to be made and submerged first.

On August 25, 1965, the nine-foot-tall statue was finally lowered to the base in the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, near Dry Rocks in Key Largo. The body of water is only 25 feet deep, meaning that the Christ of the Abyss sits close to the surface, just eight-to-10 feet away.

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The statue quickly became one of the most famous underwater tourist attractions in Key Largo, allowing snorkelers and divers to catch a glimpse of the submerged Christ-likeness standing among the coral reefs.