(Photo:Staff/HO-Centro de Estudios Borjanos/Handout)
A peculiar restored painting of Jesus Christ which many have said looks like a monkey is drawing tens of thousands of visitors and raising charity for the tiny Spanish town of Borja, where it is exhibited.
Cecilia Gimenez, 81, attempted last year to restore a fresco of Christ at the Sanctuary of Mercy Church near Zaragoza, where it had been for decades. However, her version barely holds any resemblance to the original, with many saying and some even dubbing the painting "Monkey Christ."
But a year later, the 5,000-population town has now gained worldwide fame thanks to the painting, and has attracted over 40,000 visitors and raised more than $66,285 for a local charity. Borja has taken advantage of the media attention and even put the likeness of the "restored" painting on merchandise.
"Now it seems like everyone's happy," Gimenez has said, according to local paper Heraldo de Aragon. "I'm grateful that things have quieted down."
The elderly artist has enjoyed good fortune following her restoration attempt, and two dozen of her other works are being shown at her own art exhibit through Aug. 24, the Associated Press reported. What is more, Gimenez is set to sign a deal where she will receive 49 percent of profits from the merchandise that features the image, while the city council will get the rest.
The original painting shows Jesus with a crown of thorns in a style known as "Ecce Homo" (Behold the Man) and is credited to a minor Spanish artist. Gimenez's restoration attempt, which aimed to address the flaking the picture suffered due to damp church air, has since been dubbed "Ecce Mono" or "Behold the Monkey."
Visitors who want to see the exhibit first hand must pay 1 euro or $1.30 US for the entrance fee to the sanctuary, money which is then donated to a charitable foundation that helps pay bills for a care home for the elderly.
"It's a timely agreement," said councilor Juan Maria Ojeda. "The money is going to good causes."