“Angels Unawares” is a bronze life size sculpture that depicts a group of migrants and refugees from different cultural and racial backgrounds and from diverse historic periods of time. They stand together, shoulder to shoulder, huddled on a raft. Within this diverse crowd of people, angel wings emerge from the center, suggesting the presence of the sacred among them. The inspiration behind the work is taken from a biblical passage:

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

Hebrew 13:2

The sculptural work interprets the belief that there is to be found the sacred in the stranger, in terms of the refugee and migrant people. According to its creator, sculptor Timothy Schmalz, the credit for the idea is also owed to Fr. Michael Czerny, the under-secretary of the Migrants & Refugees Section for the Vatican’s dicastery of the Promotion of Integral Human Development. While speaking with the priest in Rome in 2017, “he suggested that I start thinking about creating a sculpture specifically on refugees,” said Schmalz.

Timothy Schmalz

About Timothy Schmalz


For over 25 years, Timothy Schmalz has been sculpting large scale pieces of bronze, many of them now installed worldwide in historical churches in Rome and at the Vatican. This Canadian figurative artist describes his most important work as visual translations of the Bible. Similar to his previous work, the most famous being the “Homeless Jesus” which was installed in Capernaum, Israel, and Johannesburg, the refugee sculpture “Angels Unawares” draws on a passage from the Bible. Timothy strives to create epic artwork that connects with viewers through design and details that are not only touching on an emotional level, but also allow anyone to feel somehow a “part” of the piece.

In his own words: «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 realize 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.”»

About The Patronage

The sculpture “Angels Unawares” has come to life thanks to the financial contribution of Rudolph Peter Bratty and his wife, Carolina. The family support of the sculpture serves as a testament to their vision, commitment and to the very spirit of hope that embodies all new beginnings.