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Vatican hires formerly homeless man to paint two of its Christmas stamps


Pedal to the Stock | Shutterstock

Cerith Gardiner - published on 10/29/21

Living on the streets for years, this Polish artist now has his own workshop.

Adam Piekarski’s life on the streets has been turned around thanks to Fr. Leszek Pyś, a Polish Redemptionist.

The clergyman discovered that his fellow countryman, who’d been living on the streets of Rome for 5 years, was a talented painter.

“More than a year ago Pyś saw me drawing and asked me whether I could paint a portrait for their chapel, and that’s how it started,” shared the 42-year-old artist with Crux.

His skills with a brush soon became common knowledge, and in April this year, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, who as papal almoner heads charitable activities on the pope’s behalf, offered Pierkarski a workshop in Palazzo Migliore, a palace that has now become a shelter for the homeless.

He moved into his workshop the day before his birthday, and from there he set about painting commissions of families, pets, and children.

Soon after, he received a most important commission from the Vatican itself to create two stamps for “Natale MMXXI,” or Christmas 2021, the famous stamps issued for Advent and Christmas.

“It is still unreal to me, and I still don’t believe this honor is mine,” Piekarski shared. “I am a simple craftsman, and this just completely surprised me.”

He went on to explain that he hoped the “euphoria” of the task doesn’t overwhelm him and lead him to a vulnerable place. As an alcoholic, he explained: “The addiction is still there, and Satan is working hard to get me in those moments of triumph. But I try to hang on, work helps me a lot.”

His order from the pontiff led him to create two popular images, those of the Holy Family, and the Three Magi — although his interpretation of the Three Magi has even more meaning for the artist.

The faces representing the Three Magi actually belong to some of the men Piekarski has encountered at Palazzo Migliore, and as he explains, these faces are typical to others he’s seen during nearly two decades in total on the streets.

“I was at the bottom of existence, I thought I would end this miserable life soon. But God had different plans for me and sent Father Leszek, who gave me a helping hand,” Piekarski shared.

The cardinal seems just as excited about his fellow countryman’s work. “It’s a revolution at the Vatican that a homeless person painted the images for our famous stamps. And they paid him well!” Krajewski shared with Crux.

Despite the praise Piekarski has received for his work, the formerly homeless man is not looking for glory. “Something died in me in those years on the streets … I don’t expect to remake the Sistine Chapel.” He simply wants to lead a peaceful life, focusing on his work.

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