Outrage in Spain over botched restoration of 500-year-old St. George statue

Arches of the portico outside a Spanish church Credit Sigur Shutterstock CNA Arches of the portico outside a Spanish church. | Sigur/Shutterstock.

Outrage has been sparked in a town in northern Spain over the botched renovation of a 16th-century wooden sculpture of St. George, which was repainted by a local arts and crafts teacher.

The Church of St. Michael - located just southwest of Pamplona in the town of Estella - allegedly hired a local workshop to restore the 500-year-old polychrome statue which was showing signs of age.

The workshop, called Karmacolor, specializes in arts and crafts for children and basic furniture repairs – not professional restoration, according to the town's mayor Koldo Leoz.

However, the parish priest said the church only intended for the arts and crafts teacher to clean the sculpture and did not ask for a full renovation, according to the BBC. Since the attempted restoration, which started about a month ago, the once-faded St. George sculpture now bears a pink face with brightly colored red and gray armor.

"The parish decided on its own to take action to restore the statue and gave the job to a local handicrafts teacher. The council wasn't told and neither was the regional government of Navarre," said Koldo Leoz, mayor of Estella, according to the Guardian.

"It's not been the kind of restoration that it should have been for this 16th-century statue. They've used plaster and the wrong kind of paint and it's possible that the original layers of paint have been lost," Leoz continued, adding, "this is an expert job it should have been done by experts."

Spain's art conservation association (ACRE) also decried the failed restoration attempt, saying "we cannot tolerate more attacks on our cultural heritage."

"It shows a frightening lack of training of the kind required for this sort of job," ACRE said in a statement.

Carmen Usua, the owner of a restoration company in the Navarra region, called the restoration an "atrocity."

"As a professional, I feel disconcerted and very offended. It takes years to acquire the skills necessary to carry out these kind of restorations, so imagine the frustration when something like this happens," Usua said, according to the New York Times.

This is not the first time a Spanish Catholic church has attracted headlines with a botched attempt at artwork renovation. In 2012, an 81-year-old woman decided to "fix" a peeling 19th-century "Ecce Homo" fresco, depicting the face of Jesus Christ at Sanctuary of Mercy Church in Zaragoza, Spain.

The result smeared the features of the image to such shapelessness that it was not recognizably human and was described as a werewolf or a monkey.

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