Life Monument intended to reveal beauty and sacredness of life

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, will bless a new sculpture entitled “Life Monument” on Sunday in Rome. The bronze statue, by Canadian artist Timothy Paul Schmalz, depicts the Blessed Virgin Mary with the unborn Christ Child.

By Christopher Wells

Canadian artist Timothy Paul Schmalz, known especially for his lifelike Homeless Jesus statues and the Angels Unawares sculpture of migrants and refugees in St Peter’s Square, has unveiled his latest work, a sculpture depicting the Blessed Virgin Mary with the unborn Christ Child.

Life Monument - detail

Life Monument – detail

Beauty can save life

“This sculpture, I found, was very, very exciting for me to create,” Schmalz said in an interview with Vatican Radio. He said he was inspired by a quote from Dostoevsky, repeated by the Vatican’s Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Christopher Pierre: “Beauty can save the world”: “I realized,” said Schmalz, “that it might be an interesting project if I could create one of the most beautiful, life-affirming sculptures possible, a pro-life statue, that is all about the hope that beauty can save life.”

Listen to the full interview

Much of Schmalz’ artwork focuses on timely issues of social justice, including homelessness, migration, and human trafficking. “All these pieces are bringing attention to, I feel, issues that need to be expressed in artwork,” Schmalz explained. “If artwork has the hope of promoting and bringing awareness to a certain subject, which I do believe. And so the idea of the sacredness of life seemed to be a natural flow from those projects to the Madonna and Child, the Monument to Life with the child still in the womb.”

Life Monument - detail

Life Monument – detail

Bringing ‘invisible’ issues to light

Schmalz said he believes in the power of art, when it’s at its best, “to create awareness in a very subtle and beautiful way to a whole society.” He emphasized the importance of creating art, not for its own sake, but for God’s sake, and to use art “to bring out issues that are oftentimes invisible, like the idea of the foetus in the womb.” So, he said, “to create this piece, to have it right in the centre of Rome and also in other places, hopefully, will do a great job in bringing awareness of the beauty and sacredness of life.”

"Let the Oppressed Go Free" - sculpture of St Bakhita helping modern day slaves go free

“Let the Oppressed Go Free” – sculpture of St Bakhita helping modern day slaves go free

The need to protect the most vulnerable

The new statue, donated by the Movimento Per la Vita Italiano (“Italian Movement for Life”) is being blessed this Sunday in Rome by Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the President of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

The blessing is taking place “at a time of growing awareness of the need to protect the most vulnerable lives,” says a press release announcing the event. Archbishop Paglia explains, “We are talking about the commitment for the woman (and her partner) to receive all possible support to prevent abortion, overcoming all the poor conditions, including financial, that sadly lead to the termination of pregnancy.”

In addition to the statue in the Roman church of San Marcello al Corso, a sister sculpture will be permanently installed in Washington, D.C., after short stays in several other U.S. cities.