Italy: Underwater Christ statue to stir Palermo tourism

Christ of the Abyss, in Florida An underwater statue of Jesus Christ is a diving attraction in Florida

A statue of Jesus Christ is being submerged off the coast of Sicily as an attraction for divers, it seems.

The Christ of the Abyss will be placed 30m (98ft) underwater off the coast of Palermo by a team of diving fire fighters next month, the La Repubblica newspaper reports. The statue, which is 2m tall and weighs 700kg (110 stone), is built with environmentally friendly materials and will sit on a two-tonne base on the sea bed. Divers will be able to visit it "in the silence of the abyss" from 18 May, the paper says.

A local diving school is being credited with the idea for the project, but Palermo mayor Leoluca Orlando is also a fan. It is hoped the latest attraction will stimulate tourism and signal a "new step forward" for the city's growth, the mayor says.

It is not the first time a statue of Christ has been given a watery home. Another Christ of the Abyss has been attracting divers in the Italian Riviera since 1954. Copies of that statue can be found under the sea near the Caribbean island of Grenada and off Key Largo in the US state of Florida.

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