Angels Unawares

Angels Unawares

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This powerful sculpture was on display in front of The Basilica of Saint Mary in August 2021. 
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. A Protestant man escaping the Counter-Reformation joins a Jewish man fleeing Nazi Germany. An African family forced into slavery joins a displaced Native American. The artist Timothy Schmalz likens the sculpture to an updated version of the Statue of Liberty with figures based on historical events.
A mentality of scarcity and scapegoating has been at the heart of fears about “illegal immigration,” which Angels Unawares seeks to overturn. Schmalz wants contemporary viewers to be able to see themselves among the diverse group, and in seeing themselves recognize the role they can play in the artwork’s message, taken from Hebrews 13:2: “Be welcoming to strangers, many have entertained angels unawares.”
Angel wings rise from the center of the vessel, a nod not only to the divine stranger in scripture but also the sacred in each of us – our shared humanity. 


Angels Unawares Pope


The Angels Unawares sculpture by Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz depicts more than 140 refugees. The 3.5-ton, 20-foot-long sculpture, is a gift to The Catholic University of America and currently on a national tour. Through this pilgrimage, people across the country have the opportunity to share in its message of welcome and hope.

Angels Unawares is a second casting of a piece commissioned by Pope Francis and created by Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz, who has received broad attention for his Homeless Jesus sculpture. The original casting was installed in St. Peter’s Square and unveiled by Pope Francis on Sept. 29, 2019, the 105th observance of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. The unveiling and blessing at Catholic University was part of the 2020 observance. 


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