Jesus Breaking Bread (1976)

by Walter Erlebacher (1933 - 1991)

Photo Caption: Photo James Abbott © 2008 for the Association for Public Art
  • Title

    Jesus Breaking Bread

  • Artist

    Walter Erlebacher (1933 - 1991)

  • Year

    1976; installed 1978

  • Location

    Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, Logan Square, 18th and Race Streets

  • Medium

    Bronze, on bronze plinth and marble base

  • Dimensions

    Height 6′ (plinth 4 1/4″; base 4′4")

Commissioned by the 41st International Eucharistic Congress

Owned by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia

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At A Glance

  • Presents a figure of Jesus holding two pieces of broken bread

  • Originally displayed at Philadelphia’s Civic Center for the 41st International Eucharistic Congress

  • The statue was relocated to a site near the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul

Commissioned for the 41st International Eucharistic Congress, which met in Philadelphia in 1976, Walter Erlebacher’s sculpture presents a figure of Jesus holding two pieces of broken bread, a symbol of Holy Communion.

During the Congress, which attracted over a million visitors to the city, the sculpture was displayed at the former Philadelphia Civic Center.

Later it was moved to a site near the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, and its formal blessing at this location took place on May 26, 1978. Standing near the sidewalk, it offers an accessible, immediate, and lifelike Jesus.

Adapted from Public Art in Philadelphia by Penny Balkin Bach (Temple University Press, Philadelphia, 1992).

Voices heard in the Museum Without Walls: AUDIO program: Martha Erlebacher (1937-2013) was a painter and the wife of sculptor Walter Erlebacher (1933-1991) who created Jesus Breaking Bread. Both artists are recognized for their classical representations of the human figure. Monsignor John Miller (1937-2017) was a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia who helped develop the commission for Jesus Breaking Bread in celebration of the 41st International Eucharistic Conference held in Philadelphia in 1976. Sister Mary Scullion is a founder of Project H.O.M.E. and works on behalf of the poor and homeless. While a student at St. Joseph’s University, she was a planner for the 1976 Eucharistic Congress “Hunger for Bread Day,” which inspired the sculpture. | Segment Producer: Chana Joffe-Walt

Museum Without Walls: AUDIO is the Association for Public Art’s award-winning audio program for Philadelphia’s outdoor sculpture. Available for free by phone, mobile app, or online, the program features more than 150 voices from all walks of life – artists, educators, civic leaders, historians, and those with personal connections to the artworks.



This artwork is part of the Along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway tour

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