A sculpture of a “homeless Jesus” has been installed in Glasgow.
The statue, by Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz, is on display on Nelson Mandela Place in the city centre.
The life-size bronze depicts a homeless man sleeping on a park bench, shrouded by a cover. The gaping wounds on his feet reveal him to be Jesus.
A painting by Peter Howson inspired by the “homeless Jesus” concept will also be on display inside St George’s Tron church until Christmas.
Homeless Jesus 2017
With the purpose to highlight and raise awareness of homelessness: This canvas will be on show at St George's Tron Church: Glasgow 7th-24th December. The canvas will tour towns and cities throughout Scotland during 2018 to promote awareness of homelessness. pic.twitter.com/9DDrFneiWW
— Peter Howson (@HowsonOfficial) December 5, 2017
While the statue is found in locations across the globe – including the Vatican – Glasgow is the first city in the UK to house the artwork.
As well as the Glasgow piece, another sculpture was erected this week in the centre of New York City.
Timothy Schmalz chatted to the Sunday Post about the latest unveiling of his work.
Timothy said: “I’m so excited.
“It’s now becoming more like a movement than an art piece.
“It’s about creating an awareness of Christianity that’s not really present in visual artwork.
“It’s not just cookies and cream, it’s one of the most challenging philosophies in the world.
“You have to go beyond yourself.”
Schmalz named his creation Matthew 25, in reference to the gospel quote: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
The artist said: “I’d like this to be a sort of visual sermon.
“The Jesus figure is shown to be more akin to the poor than the wealthy, than politicians or corporations.”
The statue has drawn controversy, with many cities rejecting plans for installations.
“Their reasons for rejecting the piece have at times been unsettling”, said Timothy. “There were plans for it be in Paris but they said they didn’t want homeless people to gather there, they didn’t want to make them feel they would be welcome.”
In the run-up to Christmas, Timothy said that the statue’s message could not be more timely.
He said: “You can never have enough reminders that human lives are sacred.
“The homeless are invisible, but this visual art crystallises the homeless issue.
“Art can make us see things.
“I love the Oscar Wilde quote: ‘People in London didn’t see the fog until painters started painting it.”
The Canadian sculptor said he was inspired to create the piece after seeing a homeless person in downtown Toronto.
“I was slapped in the face emotionally. I saw Jesus in them, this figure lying while all the people were passing them by, shrouded in a sleeping bag.
“It was my own spiritual moment.
“Perhaps I can recreate that for other people so they’ll reconsider the humans forms they see lying there in the city.”
The original model of the statue was was blessed by Pope Francis. He mentioned to Timothy afterwards that it is a “beautiful and excellent representation of Jesus”.
Schmalz contacted Glasgow priest Father Willy Slavin about bringing the sculpture to Scotland.
Father Slavin then organised the installation of the statue along with the inter-faith Glasgow Churches Together.
The cost of the project was £25,000, with money raised through local churches and pro bono work.
Father Slavin said: “Christmas is a time when people are more likely to show concern, kindness and generosity towards the rough sleepers in our society.
“But the homelessness issue is with us all year round. This thought-provoking work of art can act as a daily reminder.”
Catholic Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, Church of Scotland Glasgow presbytery moderator Rev Ian Galloway and Bishop Gregor Duncan of the Scottish Episcopalian Church, along with representatives of Glasgow’s homelessness agencies, were present at the unveiling ceremony.