On August 25, 1965, a nine-foot-tall bronze statue of Christ was lowered into 25 feet of water off the coast of Key Largo, Florida. Known as the Christ of the Abyss, this submerged statue in John Pennekamp State Park was actually the third of its kind cast from the original Italian mold.
The original Il Cristo degli Abissi, or Christ of the Abyss, was lowered into the Mediterranean Sea on August 22, 1954, just off San Fruttuoso on the Italian Riviera. The bronze statue was the work of Guido Galletti, inspired by a concept by Italian diver Duilio Marcante. It was to represent Christ in the new world below the waves, a memorial for all those who had lost their lives at sea and a monument to those who continued to dive beneath it.
Seven years later, a second bronze sculpture was cast from the same mold. Like the original, it was submerged, this time off the coast of St. George’s, Grenada, in the southeastern Caribbean Sea. It was placed on October 22, 1961, a gift from Italy in recognition of the Italian crew saved from the sinking of the M.V. Bianca C, a passenger ship that had sunk off St. George’s earlier that year.
A third incarnation, again cast from the original mold, was submerged on August 25, 1965. This time the underwater location was near Dry Rocks in the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo (which, incidentally, was the first underwater park in the United States). The statue was donated to The Underwater Society of America by the Italian dive equipment manufacturer Egidio Cressi.
The John Pennekamp Park was chosen as the statue’s final resting place after plenty of debate. It arrived in 1965, but had to wait until a huge concrete base was first constructed. Eventually, on August 25, the larger-than-life bronze statue was lowered to the base, the whole ensemble standing in 25 feet of water. It soon became one of the most famous underwater attractions in Key Largo, and naturally attracted plenty of divers.
The top of the statue sits at around 8 to 10 feet below the surface, making it visible to snorkelers. But SCUBA divers get the best views (and the best selfies) of Florida’s Christ of the Abyss, diving down alongside the statue as it stands, arms aloft, among the coral reefs, an occasional barracuda or ray drifting past.
Know Before You Go
Snorkeling, SCUBA and Glass Bottom Boat Tours can be arranged through the State Park. Power Boats, Kayak, Canoe and Paddleboards can also be rented for the inland waters.