Sculpture manifests sanctity of all life and biblical imperative to show the stranger hospitality

21 May, 2024 | Church, News, Pope, World

In September 2019 Angels Unawares was installed as a major sculpture in Saint Peters Square, Rome.  The inspiration of the work arises from a passage from Hebrews 13:2, found in the New Testament: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

The sculptural work by Timothy Schmalz interprets the belief that sanctity is found in refugee and migrant people, and in all strangers.  The work depicts migrants and refugees from all cultural and racial backgrounds, and from all historic periods of time together – shoulder to shoulder – on a raft or boat.  Within this diverse crowd of people, angel wings are visible in the centre, suggesting that within the migrant and refugee there is the sacred.

Through the use of ancient scripture, contemporary and historical figures, and a universally held symbol of spirituality, the work truly is relevant to the Vatican, as well as cities around the world that strive to emphasise that all life is sacred and should be treated as such.

In writing about his work, artist Timothy Schmaltz says, “I am devoted to creating artwork that glorifies Christ.  The reason for this devotion, apart from my Christian beliefs, is that an artist needs an epic subject to create epic art.”

Mr Schmalz continues, “I describe my sculptures as being visual prayers.  When I create a three dimensional sculpture in bronze I am quite aware that it will last longer than myself.  I realise I am between two things that are much more durable than myself: Christianity and bronze metal.  It is between these that I have developed a subtle appreciation for what Saint Francis meant by ‘instrument’.  Creating art that has the power to convert.  Creating sculpture that deepens our spirituality.  Attaining these two goals describes my purpose as an artist.”

Another one of the Canadian sculptor’s works, Homeless Jesus, was unveiled outside of Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin city centre, over ten years ago.  This sculpture is a visual representation of Matthew 25 and associates Christ with the most marginalised in society.  The Christ figure is shrouded in a blanket with His face covered with the only indication that the figure is Jesus being the visible wounds on the feet.  This sculpture, whose primarily focus is to raise awareness of the marginalised, also challenges and inspires society to be more compassionate and charitable, and to act upon that inspiration.

Angels Unawares will be featured on the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference website for the month of June, to coincide with Pope Francis’ prayer intention.  During this month the Holy Father invites us to pray that migrants fleeing from war or hunger, forced to undertake journeys full of danger and violence, find welcome and new opportunities in the countries which receive them.

To find out more information on the Holy Father’s monthly prayer intention, please click here.

For more information about the art featured in the story, or to learn more about the artist, please click here.



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