ROME—A revamped statue of pope John Paul II in Rome, modified after complaints that it was an eyesore, was criticized Tuesday by believers and non-believers alike for being even uglier that the original.
“I think this version is maybe uglier than the first one,” said Graziano Pessini, 50, who came from Prato in Tuscany to see the new version of the statue, which was unveiled near Rome’s central train station on Monday.
“I’m a Catholic and I loved John Paul II, I really don’t like how the sculptor portrayed him,” he said.
The five-meter (16-foot) high bronze statue, designed by the Italian artist Oliviero Rainaldi, was unveiled in May last year, just weeks after the late pope was put on the path to sainthood—but immediately sparked controversy.
“This statue has a very big head, our pope didn’t have such a big head,” said 84-year-old local, Caterina Giustozzi, who lives in the neighborhood.
“The sculptor got it wrong from the beginning and his work really doesn’t look like John Paul II. Also, the pope seems to be frowning, what does that mean?” she added as she stood gazing quizzically at the bronze statue.
John Paul, who died in 2005, looks down on passersby, his head supported by a structure with no body, but a cloak to embrace those in need.
The harsh edges of the cloak—which previously had a box-like structure—have been softened in the new version, and the popular former pope’s head has been tilted forward to sit better on his body for a more humane effect.
Rainaldi said Monday that he was much happier with the new version, and some passersby were also impressed.
Jose Rays, 59, who was in Rome from Buenos Aires for a holiday, said, “I think it is a very beautiful statue, with a very deep meaning.”
“I’m a Roman Catholic, even though I’m not a churchgoer. I loved John Paul II and the statue has the same cute face,” he added.