AVE MARIA – A parish church has unveiled a relief of the Virgin Mary that was carved from marble mined in an Italian quarry used by Michelangelo.
Hundreds gathered for the unveiling Friday at the Ave Maria Oratory east of Naples. The 120-ton sculpture consists of several pieces and depicts the Annunciation, when the archangel Gabriel told Mary she was with child.
The relief is embedded above the entrance to the oratory, which serves the Roman Catholic “quasi-parish” of Ave Maria. Ave Maria is a planned community whose centerpiece is Ave Maria University.
The $3 million Annunciation project was paid for with private donations through the Ave Maria Foundation.
Sculptor Marton Varo spent nearly three years on the relief, working in marble from the quarry used for Michelangelo’s Pieta and David sculptures.
Varo carved five of the smaller pieces in Italy while larger stones, some more than 7 feet tall, were carved at Ave Maria.
The sculpture was blessed by Bishop Frank Dewane of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Venice.