“Homeless Jesus” Statue Finds a Fan in Pope Francis

“Homeless Jesus” Statue Finds a Fan in Pope Francis November 29, 2013

Imagine Jesus as a homeless man
—with the wounds from his crucifixion evident on his bare feet.  That’s the image which Canadian sculptor Tim Schmalz wanted to depict in his life-size bronze image of Christ, sleeping on a park bench, huddled against the cold in a blanket.

The work is inspired by Matthew 25, and represents Christ as among the most marginalized in society.  Schmalz explains that with the Christ figure shrouded by a blanket, the only indication that it is Jesus is the visible wounds on the feet.  A person can sit at Jesus’ feet on the park bench.

Sculptor Timothy Schmalz with his creation, “Homeless Jesus”

Schmalz worked for a year and a half to create this statue.  According to a feature in the New York Daily News, he came up with the idea for the unusual sculpture after spotting a homeless person sleeping on the corner of one of Toronto’s busiest streets.  It was Christmastime and while the rest of the city was bustling around with the holiday spirit, this person was wrapped up in a sleeping bag. Schmalz didn’t know if it was a man or a woman — all he could see was a mass of cloth lying still on the floor.  He said, “My initial reaction was, ‘That is Jesus.’”

This week, the artist presented his statue to Pope Francis on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica.  The Pope blessed it and, judging from his smile, seemed to like it a lot.

Timothy Schmalz’s goal is goal is to exhibit the homeless Jesus on streets in the world’s biggest cities.  He knows about how some people stereotype Christians and Christianity, but he thinks that homeless Jesus can challenge those perceptions.

He had offered it to two renowned cathedrals, St. Michael’s in Toronto and St. Patrick’s in New York; but neither had been able to accept it.  A spokesperson for St. Patrick’s Cathedral explained that they liked it, but the cathedral is currently undergoing a major renovation.  The work was subsequently installed in front of the University of Toronto’s Regis College, until its presentation in Rome.  It is not known whether it will find a permanent home in Rome, or where it might be installed.

*     *     *     *     *

Schmalz has created numerous religious scenes in bronze, like this depiction of Jesus as a prisoner, aptly titled “When You Visited Me.”

I’ve seen this sculpture of the Holy Family, with Mary and Jesus wrapped in Joseph’s protective arms, in a church near my house.  It’s titled “A Quiet Moment.”


UPDATE:  On November 30, another of the great works by artist Timothy P. Schmalz was stolen.  Read that story here.

"I'll follow you over Kathy. I was probably in more sympathy with your point of ..."

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow…. My ..."
"If you're at all interested in knowing . . . the Catholic Dogma . . ..."

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow…. My ..."
"Thank you, Mrs. Harris! Christmas blessings to you. I hope to see you over at ..."

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow…. My ..."
"Let's defer to the experts (namely, the tract writers (tractors?) at Catholic Answers) for a ..."

Heaven Is For Real: Secrets Colton ..."

Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • jenny

    I like the statue with Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus…..

  • I like it, it reminds me of a statue of a beggar Jesus at Franciscan U Steubenville.

  • Sygurd Jonfski

    The emotions are right but the theology is dubious because these images imply that Jesus has survived His crucifixion. In the past, Catholic art had to be created in accordance with the Magisterium but this is no longer the case. Sad.

    • john654

      The Pope understands, “It’s Art”!

      • Sygurd Jonfski

        I repeat: “In the past, Catholic art had to be created in accordance with the Magisterium but this is no longer the case.”

        • kathyschiffer

          And where the heck did you get that idea? What is true is that the Church sponsored art–so if the Pope hired Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, he did so with some expectations. The idea that religious art was ever suppressed by the Magisterium–well, I just don’t think so. Anyone can paint anything, the artist just can’t demand that the Church pay for it. That’s never changed.

        • Ken Richard

          I studied for priesthood for 4 years, and when I was in the seminary, I took a class in Sacred Art. In that class we differentiated between Religious Art and Sacred Art. Sacred Art by definition has a liturgical purpose, Churches, Altars, Stained Glass and Statuary used in context of divine worship are “Sacred Art”. Religious art is, well, everything else that fits the category of art, that has a religious theme. My professor was a noted expert in Sacred Art and Architecture, he used the terms Sacred Art and Religious Art, at no time did he use the term “Catholic Art”. Sacred Art still has to be created in accordance with the teaching of the Magisterium, Religious Art may be or not. I would call this statue Religious Art”. However, the piece is certainly in keeping with Catholic theology and judging by it being blessed by the successor of St. Peter in whom the Magisterium may be said to be personified, I’d say it is safe to say it is in accordance with the Magisterium as well. If you reject the Authority of his Holiness Pope Francis, then of course you are free to do so, but can you call yourself a Catholic?

    • zcastaux

      I have a little bit of interesting news…. Yes, Jesus DID survive His Cruxifixion….. It’s hard to believe, of course…..

      • Sygurd Jonfski


        • kathyschiffer


          • Sygurd Jonfski

            So He did not die on the cross for our sins?

          • Jackie Heaton

            The problem isn’t the resurrection it’s the ascension. According to tradition Jesus spent time his disciples and at the end of that time bodily ascended into heaven. I believe the artist is working from Matthew 25. “as you did it to the least of these, you did it to me.”

          • Sygurd Jonfski

            Thank you, I’m glad you understand the theological problem here (which is actually BOTH the Resurrection and the Ascension). Simply put, after the latter Jesus cannot sleep on park benches. Of course I understand the intent of the artist but the idea is theologically very suspect.

    • Jackie Heaton

      If I’ve got my traditions correct, Jesus died and was resurrected. Bodily. Even cooked fish for the disciples on the road side. Then ascended, bodily into heaven.

      • Sygurd Jonfski

        When you read the Gospels with attention, Jesus’ body after the Resurrection sometimes doesn’t seem to be a physical body. However, this is beyond the point. The fact is that Jesus did not stay around to sleep on park benches now.

        • Ken Richard

          I have read and studied them in with attention, and Jesus’ body after the Resurrection most certainly seems to be a physical body (As St. Thomas could tell us). You seem to allude to a certain deeper knowledge of Catholic teaching, and perhaps you have studied, but you couldn’t be more wrong here. To suggest that Jesus was in someway incorporeal after the resurrection is certainly contrary to Catholic teaching. I you are not a Catholic, you have the right to hold to your own tradition, of course.

  • Guest

    “Timothy Schmalz’s goal is goal is to exhibit the homeless Jesus on streets in the world’s biggest cities.”
    “He had offered it to two renowned cathedrals, St. Michael’s in Toronto and St. Patrick’s in New York; but neither had been able to accept it.”
    This article tells me the artist is forcing his art out.

  • Ken Richard

    I have to comment on this. If you find this controversial, you need to go back and read the Gospel. Start with Mt 25:35.