Priest in charge of botched 'Ecce Homo' fresco accused of theft

Theft charges

The botched restoration of a church fresco by an elderly parishioner brought it international fame - and a fortune from tourists. Now, the town of Borja is at the centre of a fresh controversy, reports The Telegraph in the SMH.

The parish priest in charge of the church where the Ecce Homo draws hundreds of visitors each week was arrested on Friday for allegedly pocketing church funds of about $340,000.

Florencio Garces, 70, was detained by Guardia Civil on suspicion of misappropriating funds, of money laundering and sexual abuse. The arrest has stirred emotion in a town that 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 - which means 'Behold the Man' - into a laughing stock and the before and after images spread quickly across social networking sites.The new icon, which quickly became known as 'Ecce Mono' for its likeness to a monkey, brought an unlikely windfall for the town in Aragon and drew some 70,000 tourists within the first year, bringing much-needed custom for local businesses.

Garces was released without bail after appearing before an investigating magistrate in Tarazona on Sunday and an investigation opened into the alleged crimes. Five other people were arrested on related charges.

Photo: The original version of the painting Ecce Homo, left, by 19th-century painter Elias Garcia Martinez, the deteriorated version, centre, and the restored version

FULL STORY Priest in charge of botched Borja 'Ecce Homo' fresco accused of theft

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