Spanish town saved by botched restoration of century-old Christian 'Ecce Homo' fresco of Jesus

Cecilia Giménez's restoration of the 'Ecce Homo' in 2012 provoked international attention as art critics and lovers despaired over her work

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The Independent Culture

A Spanish town has undergone a miraculous recovery after a well-meaning pensioner accidentally destroyed a century-old fresco of Jesus Christ, prompting international mockery.

Cecilia Giménez, 83, attempted to restore the century-old 'Ecce Homo' fresco of Jesus crowned with thorns in the Roman Catholic Church of Santuario de la Misericordia, in the small town of Borja, Spain back in 2012.

Although authorities initially suspected vandalism, Mrs Gimenez eventually came forward to confess she had attempted to restore her “favourite” painting after she became upset at the flecked and peeling paint.

In a twist of fate, the action – thought to have spelt the end for Elías García Martínez artwork – has inadvertently provided a massive tourism boost for the 5,000-strong town and has even inspired a comic opera.


The opera’s librettist Andrew Flack - who travelled to Borja to research the project -described events as “a miracle”.

“For me, it’s a story of faith,” he told the New York Times.

Since Mrs Giménez ‘restoration’ more than 150,000 tourists have visited the town in order to see the painting on the walls of the small church – which charges a euro to enter – behind a clear plastic screen.

“Why are people coming to see it if it is such a terrible work of art?” he added. “It’s a pilgrimage of sorts, driven by the media into a phenomenon. God works in mysterious ways. Your disaster could be my miracle.”

This Christmas the new and improved 'Ecce Homo' is stamped on local lottery tickets, has been featured in a small film, and made the good-natured restorer into a local celebrity.

The fame of the painting has stabilised the economy in the town, which had seen 300 jobs vanish in the economic downturn gripping Spain.