Repair of St. George statue has Spanish restoration experts crying foul

Local craftsmen painted over a 16th century statue of St. George, which Spanish restoration experts said was against the law. Photos courtesy of ACRE

June 27 (UPI) — Officials at a church in northern Spain hired a team of local craftsmen to restore a five-century-old statue of St. George, but a Spanish restoration organization was less than impressed with the results and said the repairs may have broken the law.

The statue is in an alcove at St. Michael’s Church in Estella, depicting the saint in his typical warrior image — wearing armor and astride a horse. The 16th-century wooden statue was cracked and faded and had fallen into disrepair.

Instead of asking trained restoration professionals to return the statue to its original state, the church asked craftsmen at a local workshop to handle it. The result was a cartoonish-looking St. George that critics compared to Tintin or Woody from Toy Story.

ACRE, the Professional Association of Conservators and Restorers of Spain, was less amused by the restoration, saying the repainting of the statue lessens the historical value of it.

“We cannot tolerate more attacks against our cultural heritage,” the organization said.

Because of the statue’s historical value, the law protects it, and any restorations must be handled by experts.

“I don’t think it was done with malice, but they obviously have not acted responsibly with the treasure they had in their possession,” Koldo Leoz, the mayor of Estella, said.

The outcry over the St. George statue is reminiscent of another botched restoration in Spain in 2012, when an elderly parishioner painted over a crumbling fresco of Jesus in a church. The disfigurement had some comparing the image of Jesus to a furry monkey.


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