Italy is planning to build a 200ft high, solar energy-producing statue of one of its most cherished saints.
The statue of Padre Pio, who was canonised in 2002 by Pope John Paul II and has a huge worldwide following, will be built on a hill in southern Italy, close to the town where he is commemorated.
It will cost several million pounds, with the money to be raised from his followers around the world.
The statue will be coated in a special photovoltaic paint which will enable it to trap the sun’s heat and produce solar energy, making it an “ecological” religious icon, according to the Ansa news agency.
The planning and construction of the project, near the town of San Giovanni Rotondo in the southern province of Puglia, will be put out to international tender in the next few weeks.
Padre Pio, whose real name was Francesco Forgione, was born into a poverty-stricken family in 1887 and died in 1968. He entered the Church as a teenager and became a Capuchin monk.
His followers believe that he performed many miracles during his lifetime and that his body bore stigmata – marks corresponding to Christ’s Crucifixion wounds.
A survey by a Catholic magazine once found that more Italians pray to Padre Pio than to Jesus or the Virgin Mary.