Sculptor Timothy Schmalz is working on the clay model that will eventually replace the statues that were vandalized at Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto in Sudbury, Ont. Photo courtesy Timothy Schmalz

Schmalz to replace decapitated Stations of the Cross statues in Sudbury

  • April 3, 2021

Renowned Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz has been tasked with recreating the clay statues decapitated last May at Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto in Sudbury, Ont.

Eight statues were vandalized — many beheaded, likely via a power saw — at the downtown grotto. Schmalz has taken on the task of restoring them from scratch. The St. Jacob’s, Ont., sculptor is renowned for his creations Homeless Jesus and Angels Unawares, artistic depictions that grace churches and religious institutes around the globe, including the Vatican.

David Sirois, the assistant diocesan financial administrator for the Diocese of Sault. Ste. Marie, told The Catholic Register that the insurance adjuster determined that outright replacing the statue, instead of repairing the broken parts and having them match, would be more cost effective.

While Schmalz is known for rendering original creations, this assignment is about creating exact replicas.

“We are looking to recreate what was there before so if someone comes to the grotto who hasn’t been there in a while, they will not distinguish a difference between the new statues with the older statues,” said Sirois.

One of the clay sculptures — one of Jesus’ three falls on the way to Calvary — is already complete. To cut down on courier expenses, all the repaired statues will be transported via a bulk batch when the perennially in-demand Schmalz is done crafting the replicas.

“He’s sending us each statue as he goes,” said Sirois. “He’s sending us pictures for us to give our approval before he completely dries each clay statue to do the mould. COVID-19 sort of diminishes our capacity from going to observe the statues more closely.”

Schmalz is targeting late fall to complete all the replicas. The installation of the new statues is slated for approximately one year from now.

Meanwhile, community members still have not given up hope in their quest to find out the identity of the perpetrators. Lougheed Funeral Home launched the inquiry with an initial $1,000 public reward, and other Sudbury residents joined in to up the reward to $4,500.

Gerry Lougheed recently told CTV News that “this particular site is a very sacred space to our community, not just in the history of it but in terms of the gathering here, people come here to pray, to reflect, to meditate.”

The odds of a suspect or suspects being identified at this point, almost a year after the incident, is unlikely, Sirois believes.

“They could have melted it, sold it or did personal projects with the (broken parts),” said Sirois. “So, I’m not expecting any new information, but you never know. Someone could eventually decide to speak up and this reward might help them do so.”

Sirois says the diocese sticks with its appraisal that this was a random crime. It happened a few days before the May 25 George Floyd suffocation death that triggered social protests around the globe. One form of protest was dismantling religious and historical statues.

The Friends of the Grotto property manager group is striving to monitor the grotto more closely. There were plans to install an electrical security system last autumn, but an early snowfall in Sudbury stalled those plans. It’s hoped a system will be installed some time this year.

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