Just off the coast of San Fruttuoso in Liguria, not far from the famous village of Portofino, lies the Cristo degli Abissi, or Christ of the Abyss.
Submerged 18 metres below sea level, the statue was placed into the waters off San Fruttuoso on August 22, 1954, by the Costa family upon the request of Italian diver Duilio Marcante.
The statue was dedicated to the memory of Marcante’s close friend and fellow diver, Dario Gonzatti (the first Italian to use SCUBA gear), who tragically died in the same waters in 1947.
Now one of the most popular diving sites in the world, the statue has become symbolic within the scuba diving community, and serves as a tribute to those who have died at sea, while protecting those who continue to explore the gorgeous Mediterranean waters.
The bronze statue is a towering 2.5 metres (8.5 feet) in height, and was made by Italian sculptor Guido Galletti.
To acquire the amount of bronze needed for its creation, Galletti melted down naval artefacts, bells and the medals of mariners, Olympic athletes, firefighters, and soldiers who died in combat, the latter donated by their loved ones.
The statue was raised from the depths of the ocean and restored in 2003 due to corrosion, a crustacean invasion and a broken hand from a ship's anchor. It was returned to its underwater home in July 2005.
Diving in this part of the Mediterranean is a truly unique experience.
Set against the stunning backdrop of the Protected Marine Area, the statue welcomes you with its raised arms and open hands, directed towards the sky offering a blessing of peace.
The dive is relatively easy, as it takes place in shallow waters and the bay protects the area from strong winds.
There are several diving centres in the nearby town of Santa Margherita which organise diving expeditions to the waters in front of San Fruttuoso and around the Riviera coastline.
If you would rather a more land-based experience, you can visit the San Fruttuoso Abbey to get up close to the statue’s replica.
If you happen to be in the area at the end of July, you will be able to experience an even closer encounter with the statue and its history.
On the last Sunday of the month, locals hold an annual celebration in honour of the Christ of the Abyss, featuring an underwater procession like no other religious event in Italy.