A few weeks ago my husband and I visited the Santuario de Misericordia in Borja, Spain, home to the infamous “Monkey Jesus.” I can’t really claim that it was our love of art that took us there, though painting was involved.
In the summer of 2012, without oversight, the 79-year-old hobby painter Cecilia Giménez Zueco transformed Elías García Martínez’s deteriorating “Ecce Homo” fresco into “Monkey Jesus,” aka “Beast Jesus.” Virtually overnight, Giménez’s botched restoration became a worldwide internet sensation.
Instead of trying to restore the restoration, the people behind the Santuario de Misericordia decided to make Giménez’s bizarre creation work in their favor — something they may have learned from the wise people of Pisa, who never tried to straighten their famous tower. They even went one better: For 15 minutes, we could all be Borja’s famous “Monkey Jesus”!
Today the Santuario houses a permanent exhibition on the artwork’s provenance and several do-it-yourself opportunities. And for those who aren’t much into painting and photography, the gift shop offers plenty of buy-it-yourself options.
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