Pope Francis prays by a model of Jesus the Homeless. Courtesy Timothy Schmalz

St. Jacobs sculptor has statue blessed by Pope

Jesus the Homeless an “excellent and beautiful representation of Jesus”

ST. JACOBS, ON—Jesus the Homeless has found a home. Emerging from a year-and-a-half long search, the bronze statue, sculpted by Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz, has not only been graced with a place to lay its head, but also received a blessing from Pope Francis.

The original bronze statue has been installed at Regis College, in Toronto, while a model of the life-sized sculpture, depicting Jesus as a homeless man asleep on a bench, has also been installed at the Vatican.

“I live in the country and whenever I go to the city it’s a jolt to my system seeing marginalized people living as they do,” says Schmalz. “I was in downtown Toronto two years ago and I saw a person making a bedroom out of the city. I couldn’t get that image out of my mind and I thought, ‘this is Jesus.’”

Schmalz explains that the piece is a visual translation of the Gospels. He created the piece with the face covered to communicate Jesus message in Matthew 25 that when you see the marginalized, you are seeing Him.

“The only exposed flesh is the feet. There you see the wounds of the cross,” he explains. “I wanted to create theatre, where initially you think it is a real person, then you realize it is a sculpture, then, with further investigation, you realize the message, it is Jesus. Hopefully people can benefit from that the way I did in Toronto, realizing that when you see the most marginalized people, you are indeed seeing Jesus.”

Two cathedrals initially expressed interest in the statue, but were later unable to have it installed. Schmalz believes it is significant that it was finally placed outside Regis College, the Jesuit school at the University of Toronto, then was blessed by the first Jesuit Pope—a Pope whose message has been focused on the most marginalized.

“It is an excellent and beautiful representation of Jesus." Courtesy Tim Schmalz
“It is an excellent and beautiful representation of Jesus." Courtesy Tim Schmalz

“I can’t help but feel this sculpture is an instrument of something bigger that’s going on right now. Pope Francis told me it was ‘an excellent and beautiful representation of Jesus.’ For me to have that experience and be part of the bigger picture of what the Church is doing all around the world is absolutely amazing.”

In early January 2014, Schmalz received a call from a cardinal in Washington, DC, who is working to have a model of the sculpture installed in the U.S. capital. Other models are being made for Catholic and Protestant churches in Chicago, Austin and as far away as Perth, Australia.

“My hope is that every city in North America will have this,” says Schmalz. “It’s like a 24/7 preacher, preaching a message that is very important in the world right now.”

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About the author

Senior Correspondent

Craig Macartney lives in Ottawa, Ontario, where he follows global politics and dreams of life in the mission field.