A call to faith in the midst of stormy waters.
On October 24, a Colombian Facebook page called By the Hand of Padre Pio added 12 photos of a 3-meter high underwater bronze statue of the enigmatic stigmatist and 20th-century saint to its wall. The post (abbreviated and edited for a clearer translation) reads:
Did you know?
There is a statue of Padre Pio at the bottom of the sea …
The position of the statue off the coast of Tremiti Island is intended to be the ideal representation of a strong call to faith that, even in the midst of stormy waters, can always shine with a transparent light: a gift from God immersed in the ocean.
Its essential structure, a cross, recalls the humility and simplicity of the friar that, in its contemplative solitude, keeps its arms open and suggests to the surrounding environment an air of sacredness, peace, love and mercy that were the pillars of the Father’s spirituality.
Saint Padre Pio, pray for us!
Tremiti Island, as mentioned in the above post, is a small archipelago off the coast of the Gargano Mountains in Southern Italy. On October 3, 1998, the feast of the Transitus of St. Francis, it hosted of a blessed event — a sculptor named Mimmo Norcia installed his breathtaking statue of Padre Pio.
While there are hundreds, if not thousands, of statues of Padre Pio throughout Italy, none could claim this feature: it was placed on the seabed 14 meters under water.
The statue has an 80-centimeter flexible pedestal; it is considered one of the most impressive underwater statues in the world. Apart from its sheer size, the complicated engineering operation necessary to submerge the statue was a remarkable feat. But completing this work of art was a dream Norcia, the Italian sculptor who grew up near the Gargano Mountains (where Padre Pio lived most of his life) had cultivated for a long time. In interviews, he said how much he loved Padre Pio, the sea, the Gargano, and the Tremiti Islands. He expressed that since his youth, he had a desire to create what he referred to as “the miracle of the abyss.”
The artist’s great accomplishment follows a tradition of underwater sculptures around the world, dating back to ancient Greek times, when pre-Christian people sought the protection of sailors through statues of the gods. Recently, in Italy, there is a tradition of Christ statues underwater. In Portofino, there is an underwater “Christ of the Abyss,” while in Taranto, there is a “Christ of the Sea.” Interestingly, the same mold used to cast the bronze statue in Portofino was brought to the United States to replicate a copy, now submerged off the coast of Florida.
In a practical sense, these underwater statues are only visible to divers and snorkelers. However, in a spiritual sense, the message remains beneath the surface, veiled in a certain sense, reflecting the nature of God himself. He is always present, though mostly hidden.