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Amateur turns church fresco of Jesus into ‘hairy monkey’ in botched restoration

This combination of two undated handout photos made available by the Centro de estudios Borjanos shows the 20th century Ecce Homo-style fresco of Christ before (left) and after (right) an elderly amateur artist Celia Gimenez, 80, took it upon herself to restore it in the church of the northern Spanish agricultural town of Borja.

Centro de estudios Borjanos/AP

She meant well, but apparently missed the sermon about the road to hell being paved with good intentions.

A devout Spanish woman is being roundly criticized after taking it upon herself to restore a church fresco of Jesus, a ham-fisted attempt that left the piece looking like a child's daubing.

Officials in Zaragoza, situated roughly between Madrid and Barcelona, told the media that the woman had been distressed by the recent deterioration of a 19th-century fresco by local artist Elias Garcia Martinez. The piece has little financial value but was said to carry substantial sentimental significance.

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With the Sanctuary of Mercy Church normally unlocked it was easy for Cecilia Gimenez to set to work.

Ms. Gimenez says that she had authorization from the priest to attempt the restoration. But the result fell short, even to her own eyes. And others, alleging she did the work without permission, were upset.

"I think she had good intentions," Juan Maria Ojeda, the city councillor in charge of cultural affairs, acknowledged to the Spanish television station TVE, in a clip carried by the BBC.

The BBC report cites their correspondent, Christian Fraser, who describes how the "once-dignified" portrait has been turned into something that looks like "a crayon sketch of a very hairy monkey in an ill-fitting tunic."

Making it worse, a descendent of the artist had recently donated money for a restoration, which would have been professionally done. Mr. Ojeda said that they will be looking next week at repairing the damage done by Ms. Gimenez. If the fresco cannot be fixed they will cover the wall with a photo of the original work.

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About the Author

Oliver Moore joined the Globe and Mail's web newsroom in 2000 as an editor and then moved into reporting. A native Torontonian, he served four years as Atlantic Bureau Chief and has worked also in Afghanistan, Grenada, France, Spain and the United States. More

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