Botched fresco parish in corruption storm
The botched restoration of a church fresco by an elderly parishioner turned it into a moneyspinner and brought the town of Borja international fame – but now it is at the centre of a new controversy.
The parish priest in charge of the church where the Ecce Homo now draws hundreds of visitors each week was arrested for allegedly pocketing church funds of around €210,000.
Florencio Garces, the 70-year-old priest of Borja, was detained by Guardia Civil on suspicion of misappropriating parish funds following a five-month investigation. He is also facing charges of money laundering and sexual abuse.
The arrest has stirred emotion in a town which leapt into the public eye last year after elderly resident and local artist Celia Gimenez (83) attempted to restore a 100-year-old fresco of Christ – with dire but highly amusing results.
Her amateur restoration efforts transformed the Ecce Homo into a laughing stock and the before and after images spread quickly across social networking sites. But the new icon brought an unlikely windfall for the town in Aragon and drew some 70,000 tourists within the first year.
Church authorities began charging a €1 entrance fee to those wishing to view the painting, funds that were destined for a local charitable care home.
Fr Garces was released without bail after appearing before an investigating magistrate and an investigation opened into the alleged crimes. Another five people were also arrested. (© Daily Telegraph, London)