Botched Jesus painting causes tourism boom in tiny Spanish town


A bad restoration job on a fresco of Jesus two years ago has led to a surge in tourism in the small Spanish town.

It sparked outrage, laughter and Internet memes in abundance when Cecilia Giménez took her paintbrush to the 120-year-old Ecce Homo (Behold the Man) by Elías Garcia Martínez.

Giménez, an artist who says she did the restoration with the permission of the local priest, virtually obscured the face of Jesus, and made the crown of thorns look more like a fuzzy hairdo.

But since the restoration more than 150,000 tourists from around the world have visited the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mercy in Borja, northern Spain, to see the painting.

Andrew Flack, who is working on a comic opera of the story, told the New York Times that it was a "story of faith".

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

Visitors are charged €1 to enter and look at the painting on the wall of the 16th century church.

This Christmas the town's lottery tickets have an image of the Ecce Homo on them, and there has been a scene in a Spanish film in which thieves try to steal the painting.

But although Giménez has become a local celebrity, the great grandchildren of Martínez have said the work "damages the honour of the family" and asked for it to be removed.

Since the painting cannot be restored to reveal the original work, it looks like Giménez' version is there to stay – at least for the present.

Just a few of the many spoofs of Ecce Homo:

The face of Ecce Homo on Da Vinci's Mona LisaTwitter/José Luis Ollo
Ecce Homo was superimposed on Edvard Munch's 'The Scream'Twitter
A spoof version of the Duchess of Cambridge's portrait by Paul Emsley was made to look like the Ecce Homo restorationTwitter/Quebec Tango