A CANADIAN sculptor, Timothy Schmalz, is appealing for help to
find a site in London to place his statue Jesus the
Homeless. His bronze statue features a life-size figure,
huddled under a blanket and lying on a park bench; wounds in the
man's bare feet are the only clue that he is the Christ.
The statue has already been installed in seven cities across
North America and Australia, and is due to be erected in
Washington, DC, and Rome in the coming months. Now Mr Schmalz says
that he has secured funding for the statue to go up in London, and
is looking for a suitable location.
"This is visually translating the gospel, and putting it in city
centres," he said. The artwork was inspired by a chance encounter
with a homeless man in Toronto several years ago. "It was in
November, right around the time when it was getting colder. He was
on one of the busiest streets in Toronto, using the whole city as
his bedroom. It was chilling and heart-wrenching for me. It shocked
me into thinking 'I saw Jesus.'"
A Roman Catholic, Mr Schmalz said that he immediately connected
his experience to Matthew 25, where Jesus tells his disciples that
when they serve the needy, they serve him. Mr Schmalz hoped that
his sculpture would provoke the same reaction in others.
"My favourite comment has to be a woman who said: 'Oh, great,
every time I see a homeless person, I'm going to think of this
Others have had a different response. After Jesus the
Homeless was placed outside an Episcopal church in Davidson,
North Carolina, a number of residents called the police, believing
the huddled figure to be a real person.
"A lot of people have problems seeing Jesus represented in that
way," Mr Schmalz said. "But I think the artwork is needed because
of that reaction. . . When they look really closely, they will see
from the wounds on his feet that it is Jesus. That's the
eureka moment. This sculpture is as shocking as the
Gospels are. It's as shocking as Jesus was."
Although the RC cathedrals of St Patrick's in New York City and
St Michael's in Toronto have declined the statue, Pope Francis has
seen and blessed a model of it (left). The Vatican has
applied to the authorities in Rome to place it on an avenue leading
to St Peter's Basilica.
Mr Schmalz says that he expects the artwork to last for "at
least 1000 years". "It's a little spiritual experience and a visual
lesson [passers-by] can take on them as they rush to their