Ecce Homo priest hit with €200,000 fraud charge

The priest of a small Spanish village which rose to international fame after a local woman in 2012 'restored' a fresco of Jesus Christ has been arrested for alleged sexual abuse and the embezzlement of €210,000 ($285,000).

Ecce Homo priest hit with €200,000 fraud charge
A lawyer for Borja's priest says the case has "absolutely" nothing to do with the infamous restoration of the Ecce Homo fresco. Photo: Centro de Estudios Borjanos/AFP

The local priest of Borja in Spain's Zaragoza region was taken into custody on Friday charged with offences including sexual abuse, embezzlement and money laundering.

Seventy-year-old  Florencio Garcés is one of six men who have been arrested as part of a fraud investigation police have dubbed Operation Thorn Tree, Spain's El Mundo reported on Monday.

But a lawyer for the priest said the case had "absolutely" nothing to do with the infamous 'restoration' of the Ecce Homo (Behold The Man) fresco.

The village of Borja came to international attention in 2012 after local parishioner Cecilia Giménez touched up the 19th century image of Jesus. She carried after the work after fearing that parts of the fresco were flaking off due to damp on the church walls.    

Read The Local's in-depth profile of Cecilia Giménez: the world's worst art restorer. 

The amateur results captured international attention, inspiring ridicule but have also brought many tourists to the town.

Entrance to the church costs €1 ($1.30) and all the money goes to the renovation of the building. So far visitors have contributed €50,000 to church coffers.

The lawyer for Garcés said, however, that the current charges did not relate to money earned though visitors to see the Ecce Homo. 

Locals on Saturday demonstrated in support of the priest saying they "in disbelief" after his arrest, Spain's La Nueva España newpaper reported.

Garcés has been released from custody and his passport has been confiscated. He is set to appear before a judge on Monday.

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Spain laughs (and groans) at yet another botched art restoration

Oops. Spain did it again.

Spain laughs (and groans) at yet another botched art restoration
Before and after photos taken by Antonio Guzman Capel.

The attempted repair of a statue on the façade of an historic building in the Spanish city of Palencia has been mocked for its “cartoon like appearance” in the latest case of Spanish art restoration gone wrong.  

The new restoration disaster is making headlines in Spain after it emerged that a weathered sculpture on the one of the city’s most emblematic buildings had undergone a revamp that didn’t exactly turn out as it should.

'It's more like a cartoon head than the artistic head of one of Palencia's most emblematic buildings,' outraged local painter Antonio Guzman Capel wrote in a Facebook with before and after shots of the statue.

Photo of the botched restoration taken by artist Antonio Guzman Capel. 

One social media user compared the new sculpture to 'sand sculptures kids do on the beach,' while another quipped that “it looked like a plasticine model made in kindergarden”.

The statue was reportedly replaced during restoration work on the listed building which dates from 1919 and now houses a Unicaja bank.

It is unclear who is responsible for the “restoration” which is labeled a “chapuza” in Spanish. 

It has been dubbed the new Ecce Homo, in reference to the now infamous attempts by Cecilia Giménez, who in 2012 at the age of 82 decided to touch-up a painting in her local chapel.


The orginal work by Elias Garcia had deteriorated before the botched restoration Photo: AFP

The disastrous repair made headlines across the world, but changed the fortunes of the small Aragon town of Borja by attracting tourists and even inspired an opera.

Two years ago another restoration attempt also brought ridicule when a 500-year-old St George’s statue in a corner of a small church in Navarra suffered the indignity of a rather garish paint job.

Before and after images of the statue in the hamlet of Estella, Navarra.

Almudena Gonzalez, another local, wrote on Facebook that the Palencia restoration 'makes me want to cry.'

'It's terrible. And to think of all the great artists we have.'