Spain: Woman Who Ruined Religious Fresco Wants Royalties

Cecilia Gimenez botched the restoration of a 19th-century Spanish fresco. Now, as many flock to laugh at her work, she wants a cut of the entrance fees to give to charity.

By Fiona Govan

The elderly Spanish woman who ruined a religious fresco with her botched restoration is now demanding royalties from her work after it became an unlikely tourist attraction.

Cecilia Gimenez, who is in her 80s, made headlines across the world after attempting a DIY restoration that left the 19th-century fresco of Christ at her local church in Borja resembling a monkey.

The altered image of Ecce Homo—Behold the Man—became an Internet sensation and sent thousands of curious sightseers to the Santuario de Misericordia to laugh at her handiwork.

Authorities threatened to sue Mrs. Gimenez for her unauthorised attempt, which she insisted had been carried out with only good intentions because the painting was in need of repair.

But popularity for the modified masterpiece grew with even budget airline Ryanair offering cheap deals to nearby Zaragoza airport encouraging “pilgrims” to visit the work that was quickly dubbed “Ecce Mono”—Behold the Monkey.

An Internet petition to keep the repair job garnered widespread support and seizing an opportunity to swell its coffers, the church began levying a 4 euro (£3) entrance fee on visitors, earning 2,000 euros in the first four days.

Lawyers acting for Mrs. Gimenez now insist she should be entitled to a cut of the profits, which she wants to go toward a charity of her choice.

“She just wants the church to conform to the law,” lawyer Enrique Trebolle said. “If this means economic compensation, she wants it to be for charitable purposes.”

Her lawyer added that she would want any money made from the painting to go toward muscular atrophy charities, because her son suffers from the condition.

The image was painted by Elias Garcia Martinez, a local artist, more than a century ago, but had recently suffered surface damage.

Family of the original artist have called for the image of Christ with a crown of thorns to be restored to its former glory and have said they will seek legal action against Mrs. Gimenez for “destroying” the work.

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The Sancti Spiritus Hospital Foundation, which owns the Santuario de Misericordia, has also retained lawyers to defend the action and retain their right to proceeds from visitors to the church.