Friday, August 24, 2012

Parishioners gone wild in Spain

In the Internet service world from whence I came there was an axiom that goes along the lines of, "The only perfect network is one without users on it." A similar thing could be said, tongue-in-cheek, about the perfect parish.

MADRID (NY Times) — A case of suspected vandalism in a church in a northeastern village in Spain has turned out to be probably the worst art restoration project of all time.

An elderly woman stepped forward this week to claim responsibility for disfiguring a century-old “ecce homo” fresco of Jesus crowned with thorns, in Santuario de la Misericordia, a Roman Catholic church in Borja, near the city of Zaragoza.

Ecce homo, or behold the man, refers to an artistic motif that depicts Jesus, usually bound and with a crown of thorns, right before his crucifixion.

The woman, Cecilia Giménez, who is in her 80s, said on Spanish national television that she had tried to restore the fresco, which she called her favorite local representation of Jesus, because she was upset that parts of it had flaked off due to moisture on the church’s walls.

The authorities in Borja said they had suspected vandalism at first, but then determined that the shocking alterations had been made by an elderly parishioner. The authorities said she had acted on her own.

But Ms. Giménez later defended herself, saying she could not understand the uproar because she had worked in broad daylight and had tried to salvage the fresco with the approval of the local clergy. “The priest knew it,” she told Spanish television. “I’ve never tried to do anything hidden.”

Ms. Giménez said she had worked on the fresco using a 10-year-old picture of it, but she eventually left Jesus with a half-beard and, some say, a monkeylike appearance. The fresco’s botched restoration came to light this month when descendants of the 19th-century artist, Elías García Martínez, proposed making a donation toward its upkeep.

News of the disfiguring prompted Twitter users and bloggers to post parodies online inserting Ms. Giménez’s version of the fresco into other artworks. Some played on the simian appearance of the portrait.

The Borja authorities said they were now considering taking legal action against Ms. Giménez, although they insisted that their priority was to try to return the work to its original state, under the guidance of art historians.


  1. This is really little of me, but I cannot help but ask if what this woman did is actually any different than what the Roman Catholic Church did to their own churches en masse in the 1970's. Oh wait, it IS different: When the RCC authorities desecrate their own tradition it is the "Spirit of Vatican II," but when some misguided old lady does it, the police are called.

  2. Most Roman Catholics cannot sing and now we know most cannot paint either. Sad!.

  3. Actually, it strikes me that whatever men may think, God honors the love for Christ that Cecilia Giménez showed in offering her talents (limited as they may be from the point of view of worldly-minded artistic types) to the service of her local parish.