Botched fresco changes fortunes of Spanish town
The botched restoration of a religious fresco by an elderly parishioner that invited ridicule and made headlines the world over a year ago has changed the fortunes of a Spanish town."After everything that happened, we can say that the balance has been positive. It has brought tourists from all over the world, been a boost to the economy of local restaurants and raised money for charity," said Francisco Arilla, the mayor of Borja. "It has put the town on the map."
When 82-year old widow, Celia Gimenez, picked up her artist's brushes to spruce up Ecce Homo, a century old fresco of Christ at her local church, she could have had no idea of the furore it would cause.
The painting of Christ with a crown of thorns was in dire need of repair after years of humidity and salt residue had taken its toll but her amateur restoration efforts transformed it into a laughing stock.
Images of the icon before and after spread like wildfire over social networks and it was dubbed Ecce Mono for its likeness to a monkey.
Local authorities said they would sue Mrs Gimenez for destroying the mural and vowed to call in the best professional restorers to undo the damage.
However, a year on and the town is celebrating its unlikely windfall and the embarrassed pensioner who put it on the map.
Some 70,000 tourists have been drawn to the unremarkable town of Borja, near Zaragoza in the Spanish region of Aragon, to view the disfigured fresco in situ at the Sanctuary of Mercy Church.
Since church authorities started charging an entrance fee of one euro, some 50,000 euros has been raised that is destined for a local charitable care home with 60 residents.
Now the council has establish copyright and drawn-up merchandising agreements that will see the Ecce Mono image printed on plates, tea-towels, postcards, mugs and T-shirts.
The image has even been used on a label to promote the local wine.
Plans to restore the original image have been shelved and Mrs Gimenez has become a local celebrity with the town council putting on a special exhibition of her other artworks.
Mrs Gimenez believes her paintings, which mainly comprise romantic representations of local landscapes, show her true talent as an artist and hopes that she will become famed for more than just her mistake with the Ecce Homo.
"As an artist, one wants to be known, but not for creating something one isn't proud of, not for being a joke," she said.