Monday, January 24

Adam Pikarski, the Pole who painted the Homeless Wise Men


Vatican City

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This year, the Magi are spending the night in sleeping bags under the Bernini colonnade of the Vatican and every morning they use the homeless showers in the old baths next to the entrance of St. Peter’s Basilica. Literally. “People pass by him so fast that they do not see them, they do not notice,” says Monsignor Francesco Mazzitelli, until recently number two of the Pope’s postal service. Come early in the morning and you will be able to recognize them in line, especially Gaspar and Baltasar », proposes this priest. Some fault that their majesties are there is Adam Piekarski. His story is a true Christmas story.

Comes from

a middle-class Polish family. One day he left home. He wandered in France (he wanted to see the Louvre), Switzerland and Austria. Life brought him to Rome. He slept in the street, in the arcades of the Vatican, and the cold and boredom brought him closer to alcohol. To distract himself, he painted building facades, animals, and the faces of those close to him, homeless people like himself. And so the miracle began.

Sister Anna, a tough nun of those who are not afraid of drunks, noticed his drawings. When Father Leszek Pys told her that he was looking for someone to make a portrait of a 19th century saint for his order, the nun advised him to ask for it from the homeless painter. The first part of the miracle was for Adam to accept the assignment and the second, for him to complete it successfully. But he was still on the verge of spoiling everything: when they paid him for the work, the alcohol took him back to the depths. “I have several more assignments for you to paint,” Priest Leszek explained to him one afternoon when he found it dirty and soaked on the Via della Conciliazione. “But if you want them, you must take the first step, you must want to do them,” he said.

His teammates told him that this time he would not be capable, that he had no talent. Bad omens that for Adam were a full-blown challenge and he decided to go back to the brushes. They commissioned him a portrait of the Grand Master of the Order of Malta, another of John Paul II, a third of a Polish nun … This time the painting really changed his life. He began to get ready, to have a schedule, A cardinal provided him with a study so that his material would not be stolen, found a place to sleep and a job as a night watchman. “For me art is a gift with which to change my life,” he said.

Suddenly the most important order arrived. Monsignor Francesco Mazzitelli proposed that he make two Christmas pictures for the Vatican stamps. Adam was afraid, but Father Leszek convinced him. To paint the faces of Gaspar and Baltasar, he asked two of his homeless friends to pose. The third, Melchior, is a mixture of several and represents all the others in Rome. “It all started with a meeting,” the painter told Vatican radio. The priest looked at him and saw not only a drunken tramp. He gave me a chance. I imagine that behind it is the hand of God ».

Monsignor Mazzitelli has seen thousands of letters and postcards leaving the Vatican with the faces of the homeless Magi. “Whoever looks at these stamps will be able to see the faces of those who until now were invisible,” he explains smiling. The idea of ​​launching these stamps has also changed the life of the Italian monsignor. Perhaps the Pope liked his idea because a week later named him number two of the ‘apostolic almsgiving’ that coordinates aid to the poor. Let’s see if there he manages to change more lives like Adam and his Magi.

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