Amsterdam is full of art, from world-renowned artists to anonymous sculptors. What are the stories behind these works? This time: Homeless Jesus by Timothy Schmalz.
This article comes from Het Parool. Every day a selection of the best articles from the newspapers and magazines appears on NU.nl. You can read more about that here.
On Sunday afternoon, a homeless person sits on the bench in front of the Moses and Aaron Church. His shoes and socks and some of his household goods lie on the pavement in front of him. Another part is on the bronze bench next to him; a chair, a lampshade, a cardboard box, a bicycle with two flat tires and an Albert Heijn cart full of junk are carefully draped next to and on top of a sleeping bronze man under a blanket.
There are more respectful ways to treat art, but it’s also appropriate. The bronze sculpture by Canadian artist and devout Catholic Timothy Schmalz depicts Jesus, recognizable by the stigmata on his feet, wrapped in a blanket. Homeless Jesus is the name of the artwork, which Schmalz made as part of a series of works depicting a passage from the Bible. For example, the reclining Jesus on the bench refers to Matthew 25:35-45. In it, Jesus tells his followers that when they care for the sick, the poor, the naked, the hungry, the thirsty, the captive, and the stranger, they also care for him.
The bench in front of the Mozes en Aäronkerk is a copy. The original statue was placed in front of the Regis College, the theological college of the University of Toronto, in early 2013. (Both St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica in Toronto and St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York had declined “the gift.”)
Saturday Night Live
As of 2016, more than a hundred casts of the statue have been installed worldwide, including in Buenos Aires, Capernaum, New York, Madrid, Melbourne, Rome and Singapore. Shortly after a bench was placed in front of the Episcopal Church in Ohio, a member of the community called the emergency department, mistaking it for a person in distress. The incident went viral and made it to Saturday Night Live.
The bronze bench at the Moses and Aaron Church was unveiled on Sunday, November 13, 2022, the World Day of the Poor. It was an initiative of the Community of Sant’Egidio, a Christian organization dedicated to peace and friendship with those who are poor and vulnerable. At the unveiling, Colm Dekker, who has also been City Deacon for Amsterdam since 2019, welcomed in particular the ‘friends of the street’ who regularly come to eat at the Franciscustafel, the restaurant of Sant’Egidio that receives hundreds of guests every week.
Subsequently, deputy mayor Rutger Groot Wassink emphasized the importance of the homeless Jesus to make people think and to put the major problem of homelessness on the agenda. He concluded his speech with: “The most famous homeless person in the world has arrived in Amsterdam, and for once I say: alleluia!”
Artist Timothy Schmalz
Where Waterlooplein 207, Amsterdam