ESTELLA, Spain — Spanish churches have a heritage of centuries-old art and history. But when restoration of that heritage becomes inevitable, troubles may begin.
The changes made to a 16th-century polychrome statue of San Jorge (St George) in the Church of St. Michael in Estella, a town in the Navarre region, provoked anger among art experts and inevitable comparisons to another botched restoration — the infamous Ecce Homo fresco of Jesus.
The statue in Estella, portraying St. George charging the dragon, had turned a dark brown with age. After the restoration, photos of a pink-faced St. George wearing a flashy red and gray armor suit made the rounds on social media.
The mayor was livid. “Today Estella doesn’t make news for its spectacular historical, artistic, architectural or cultural heritage, but because of miserable actions performed on a 16th-century St George statue that is in one of the most imposing religious temples of the city ” mayor Koldo Leoz tweeted along with a picture of a newspaper calling the restored statue the “Navarre’s Ecce Homo.”
The mayor said the church’s priest decided to renovate the carving without consulting or informing the city council, “something he should have done by law.”
He said the priest hire “an academy of crafts” to perform the restoration, instead of professionals trained in that task.
“I do not doubt the good intentions of both the pastor and the person in charge of desecrating this work of art through inappropriate techniques, but the negligence of both is very serious and can not be excused by good intentions alone.”
Leoz announced that he has called experts to weigh in on whether the restoration could be reversed.
CNN has reached out to the mayor but has not heard back.
Art lovers are comparing the restoration to the Ecce Homo fresco of Jesus in Borja, near Zaragoza.
In 2012, the efforts of an elderly parishioner to restore a 120-year-old fresco titled “Ecce Homo (Behold the Man)”, depicting Jesus Christ with a crown of thorns, initially drew scorn.
The work was so amateurish that people began calling the image the “Monkey Jesus.”
But that story had something of a happy ending. Images of the restoration went viral and drew tourists to the town in the thousands.