Please get ready. I’m about to disabuse you of some of your core beliefs.
You won’t find this comfortable. But there is, in its way, a happy ending. It might uplift you.
For this is the story of Cecilia Gimenez. She lives in Borja, a small town in northern Spain.
It’s not the first destination tourists flock to. However, a few years ago Gimenez became famous.
Or, rather, infamous.
In 2012, she tried to restore a fresco depicting a suffering Jesus Christ. It’s called Ecce Homo. Behold The Man.
Behold Gimenez, who may not be the finest artist in the world.
She isn’t a professional. She is, however, a profound devotee of the Sanctuary of Mercy Church, where the fresco was displayed.
She saw that it needed restoration and thought she knew how to do it. After all, she’d painted a few landscapes in her time. She really was simply trying to help.What she ended up perpetrating was an image not unlike a cross between a narcoleptic monkey and one of the overly sensitive prehistoric men in those Geico ads.
And a potato.She blamed paint that ran. She said the work was unfinished.However, what she’d restored had already reached shocked human eyes. And you know what happens when human eyes are shocked, don’t you? Yes, the humans contact the media.So it was that Cecilia Gimenez became known as the woman who had destroyed a fresco of Christ.
The family of the original artist was outraged.
There’s something about outrage, though, isn’t there? We’re fascinated by it. We want to witness it. We want to participate in it.
So it was, as the Daily Mail relates it, that the Sanctuary of Mercy Church in Borja became a tourist attraction.
People flocked to see what was less the Mona Lisa and more beyond appeasing.
They even paid an entrance fee. Churches have long been known to have an enterprising bent. Have you seen some of the fancy vestments they wear?
Suddenly, Cecilia Gimenez, who is now 82 years old, was being stopped in the street.
The tourists didn’t want to berate her. They just wanted to meet her. They just wanted to touch the hem of her being. Soon, she was offered the chance to hold an art exhibition.
And then the family of the original painter launched a court case. They wanted the painting properly restored. This grotesque rehash surely couldn’t be allowed to live.
Wait, but it was making money for the church. And, indeed, for the whole of Borja.
After much legal wrangling, the painting stayed as Gimenez left it.
She got a little bonus. The court rules she now owned 49 percent of the copyright to the biggest tourism attraction in Borja.
There are small lessons to be learned here. Sometimes being told that you’re useless by so-called experts doesn’t mean you’re useless at all.
Sometimes, releasing an unfinished or even apparently poor product into the outside world might bring consequences that you could never imagine. Sometimes, they’re positive.
And sometimes, just retaining a touch of your own integrity — however much others might decry it — can bring you peace.
Gimenez now seems to be very much at peace. Her work appears on T-shirts and wine bottles.
They say that God works in mysterious ways. People do too.
The things that move them might not be the things that experts say should move them.
But what do experts know? Less than they think, I fear.