Sanctuary of Mercy Church – Borja, Spain

The following entry is a record in the “Catalogue of Catastrophe” – a list of failed and troubled projects from around the world.

Sanctuary of Mercy Church – Borja, Spain
Date : Aug 2012
Cost :

Synopsis :
Granted, this is the smallest project in the catalogue, but it is a good illustration of one of the most basic building blocks of a successful project: the need for people with the right knowledge, skills and experience! Ecce Homo (Behold the Man) by Elias Garcia Martinez was painted more than 100 years ago. While not the most valuable painting in the world, the fresco was a graceful depiction of Jesus Christ that helped inspire worshipers at the Sanctuary of Mercy Church in Borja, Spain.

Over the years the region’s high humidity had taken its toll and the fresco had deteriorated badly. Paint was peeling and the beautiful detail in the painting was slowly being eroded away.

Badly needing restoration an elderly parishioner decided it was time to act before the fresco was gone forever. An amateur artist herself she decided to take on the project herself. Unfortunately she lacked the delicate skills needed to undertake the work and the net result was an artistic disaster (watch video)

Although there were many descriptions of what the resulting restoration looked like, my favourite is from BBC Europe correspondent Christian Fraser. Fraser is quoted as saying that “the delicate brush strokes of Elias Garcia Martinez have been buried under a haphazard splattering of paint. The once-dignified portrait now resembles a crayon sketch of a very hairy monkey in an ill-fitting tunic”. Of course the fresco has now reached a far broader audience than it ever did and the restoration project has become a classic piece of Internet humour.

Contributing factors as reported in the press:
Lack of technical knowledge and skills. Lack of oversight and governance (the priests responsible for the church do not appear to have acted to protect the fresco or to ensure the restoration was handled by a suitably qualified restorer)

Reference links :

  1. Spanish fresco restoration botched by amateur
  2. Ecce Homo (Elías García Martínez)
  3. Woman who botched Jesus Christ fresco in Spain demands royalties