Image: Statue
Italo Banchero  /  AP
People flock to see a bronze statue of Christ in Genoa, Italy, on Friday. A woman claimed that she saw the face of the popular Italian saint Padre Pio on the figure's chest, sparking the controversy.
updated 6/18/2004 7:22:04 PM ET 2004-06-18T23:22:04

Thousands of people flocked to see a bronze statue of Christ in Genoa after a woman claimed she saw the face of Italian saint Padre Pio on the statue’s chest.

The archbishop of Genoa inspected the statue and then said it could be returned next week to its home on the sea bed off San Fruttuoso, about 15 miles (24 kilometers) south of Genoa, local official Alfio Barbagallo said Friday.

Barbagallo attributed the alleged vision to plays of light or stains on the body of the statue.

“In reality, there was nothing miraculous,” Barbagallo said. “The cardinal did his duty to come and calm the nerves of the faithful.”

The statue was sculpted in 1955 by Guido Galletti and submerged 60 feet below the sea. It could be observed by divers or, when the sea was calm, by boaters.

The statue was pulled out of the water last year for restoration, including repair of a hand apparently knocked off by a dropped anchor, and then put on display in Genoa. About 60,000 people have come to see the statue.

On Wednesday, a woman praying in front of the statue claimed to see the face of Padre Pio on its chest, prompting a doubling in the number of daily visitors to the statue.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Genoa’s archbishop, inspected the statue Thursday, said the church was studying the phenomenon and indicated it could be returned underwater.

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