Grandmother Destroys Religious Work of Art

80-year old parishioner attempts fresco restoration. Makes Jesus look like monkey.

By Vernon Felton

It’s hard to say why this particular story has whirled around the world so quickly, but it seems that every site in existence has run some version of it. In case you haven’t heard about this yet, here’s the recap:

More than 100 years ago, artist Elias Garcia Martinez painted a fresco of Jesus Christ on the wall of a church near Zaragoza, Spain, titled, "Ecce Homo" (Behold the Man). While it’s not considered a priceless piece of art, the folks in that town are more than a little partial to it, as are the artist’s descendants, who still visit to view the fresco from time to time.

Of course, paintings get a little natty after a good century or so, which is where trained art restorers enter the picture; with a deft touch of the brush, they can make knackered images of tortured saints look just as fresh and agonized as the day they were created.

In this case, however, it seems that the church either didn’t have the funds to pay for a professional restoration or simply didn’t notice that one of its parishioners was taking matters into their own untrained hands. This much we do know, 80-odd year old Cecilia Gomez went to work on Martinez’s work of art and things quickly got out of hand. The image was just a bit spotty at first. Gomez first scraped away sizable sections of the painting (ostensibly to pave the way for her restoration) and then proceeded to make The Son of God look, as one BBC reporter aptly described it, like “…a crayon sketch of a very hairy monkey in an ill-fitting tunic."

In the video below, Gomez gives her take on the situation.

I find myself torn between laughing at the situation and feeling bad for Gomez who is clearly distraught in the video. It’s clear from her hand wringing and teary eyes that she didn’t mean to butcher the fresco and the odds are pretty good that she’s telling the truth about the local priest asking her to attempt the restoration–it’s kind of hard to not notice an octogenarian scraping away at your wall and then adding a couple pounds of red and brown paint to your prized piece of art.

And here’s what I keep asking myself, “Who in their right mind would ask this woman to restore the painting in the first place?”

I love my Grandma (God rest her soul), but if I’d given her a paint brush and two cans of Kelly Moore, and told her to have at the Sistine Chapel, I’m pretty sure she’d have f*cked up Michelangelo’s best something fierce.

At 80 years of age, you’re doing pretty damn well if your underpants are clean and you remember where you put your dentures the night before–you sure as hell don’t want to add “Make lifelike image of Jesus Christ on wall of famous chuch” to your to-do list for the day.

You’ve got plenty to worry about as it is.

So, while part of me looks at the very sapien image of Jesus Christ and laughs, another (better) part of me thinks about that old lady in Spain who everyone is laughing about and is grateful that she probably has never heard of Google.