I’m sure by now most of you have heard of the restoration of a 102 year old fresco that went horribly wrong. If you haven’t heard about it yet, you can read a little about it here.
The thing about the failed restoration attempt is that i’m really not sure how to feel about it. Everyone will have their own opinion of it, but i am both troubled by the whole circumstance and a little glad.
I took a course at Providence University College a few years ago called Rituals of Prayer. One of the assignments was to study frescos and understand the relevance of them in Christian living. Since then i have taken a greater liking to them. So when this story came up, i was a little dismayed. There is a reason, whatever it may be, that the fresco got damaged in the first place. That’s how it goes sometimes. Don’t try to fix it. Just let it be. One of my favorite frescos is called Christ of Zvenigorod. It’s quite damaged. But it adds something to the fresco that would not otherwise exist. The fresco seems more “daunting” (if i can use that word) than it would otherwise and it forces the observer to view Christ Jesus a little differently.
You can see what i mean.
But that’s just the trouble.
The restoration of a fresco that has been damaged is not necessary. I understand the well-meaning intentions of this elderly lady who wanted nothing more than to restore a fresco that she grew up with. The damaged fresco must have caused her to ache, knowing what it should look like. Seeing the original beside the damaged copy, we get a sense of what this elderly woman must have felt. I can hear the pang in her voice, “I just wanted it to look like it did before. He looks hurt. He looks broken. But he’s not broken. I just wanted to fix it.”
The tension i feel inside of me goes a lot deeper than this though. With the restoration of the fresco into something that one article called, “amateurish, almost cartoon-like portrait,” the image of our Lord Jesus Christ is once again dragged through the mud. The Toronto Sun article linked to earlier notes, “A BBC Europe correspondent described the restoration as resembling “a crayon sketch of a very hairy monkey in an ill-fitting tunic.””
And that is what is most troubling. Read the comments of any site with an article related to this restoration effort and you will read how a lot of people are laughing over this. They think the image is funny. The town where the fresco exists has become a tourist attraction where people go for a laugh.
One comment left by an observer noted, “If it were a botched image of mohammed, there would be a far different response, not all the laughter I see posted here.”
A friend of mine was describing to me two books that he read recently, The 180 Degree Christian and You Lost Me. Both authors, he said, were describing the lack of conviction with which the Church has lived its life over the last number of decades, and the decay of morals and ethics in Christian living. They describe how Christians have done a poor job of representing Christ in their sphere of influence, be it at work in the office or on the construction site, or in the supermarket aisles as they shop for groceries.
Which leads to the question: How have i represented Christ? How do i represent Christ?
How have you? How do you?