'Friendly' Satan statue causes anger in Segovia, Spain

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This sculpture of the devil may be installed in the Spanish city of Segovia, near its famous aqueduct. But some Segovians have objected and said the statue looks too friendly.

(CNN) — How would you feel if you spotted a horned figure perching near a bridge, cell phone in hand, snapping a selfie?

No, this isn't a nightmare -- it's a real artistic proposition in the Spanish city of Segovia, northwest of Madrid, where local authorities hope a statue of Satan will become a tourist attraction.

But the statue's impish demeanor has upset Roman Catholics, who have collected 5,500 signatures on a petition decrying it as "offensive" to their religion.

The petitioners say the proposed devil looks too good natured. Plus there's the whole selfie thing.

"This representation is offensive to Catholics," the petition states, arguing the devil should be portrayed in art as "repulsive and despicable, not friendly and seductive."

A legal complaint has also been lodged, although this has reportedly been dismissed.

The Satanic statue is intended to sit 200 meters from Segovia's famous Roman-era aqueduct as, the city council says, "a nod to the legend" which claims the structure was constructed by the devil himself in just a single night.

'Sad controversy'

Not everyone is concerned about the sculpture.

A rival petition supporting its installation has been signed by over 2,100 people.

The devil sculpture "is a part of the legend of the Aqueduct of Segovia, which doesn't affect morality or religion, since it's nothing more than a character from a legend," reads the appeal.

One of those hoping to ensure the statue gets built is its creator, José Antonio Abella.

"It's a sad controversy for me," Abella tells CNN Travel.

"Segovia is a very beautiful city, and the vast majority of its people are friendly and calm people. I fear that a few intolerant and backward people could distort the image of this city."

Abella says the devil looks friendly on purpose.

"I have tried to make him look nice, smiling and good-natured. But it seems that ultra-religious people do not like the demon to smile. They say it offends their religious sentiments."

Abella worked as a doctor for nearly 40 years and is also an author. His sculptures, he says, are influenced by the work of British artist Henry Moore.

"This sculpture of the devil will be my last public statue, because I want to dedicate all my time to literature," he says.

Give the devil his due, he seems to have won judicial backing. Abella says a legal bid to block the statue has failed and it should be installed by the end of January.

"I believe that the sculpture will end up taking its place, and that all this storm will pass," says Abella. "It has not been made to hurt anyone's feelings, quite the opposite: it is designed so that people smile at its side.

"I think thousands of tourists will take a selfie at this sculpture."

This story was first published on CNN.com, "'Friendly' Satan statue causes anger in Segovia, Spain."