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World News

'I'm very sorry': Priest's Holy Week paint job brushes over 300-year-old church frescoes

by Donna Birrell

A priest in Tenerife has apologised after painting over historic 300-year-old frescoes in his church.

Fr Hector Lunar from the Church of St Anthony of Padua in the town of El Tanque told local newspaper El Dia: "No one told me about it. All I wanted to do was add another coat of paint to that bit of the church to get it ready for Holy Week events."

The frescoes in the presbytery of the 16th-century church were discovered 20 years ago and covered with protective paint. They were given protected status a decade ago. However, Fr Hector said he was not aware of their significance before he asked for the walls to be stripped and repainted. He added that he had only just realised that he should have consulted the local authorities before undertaking work on the historic church.

"I'm sorry, and I apologise to all the relevant authorities…If they need to punish me, they should punish me. My mistake was not having informed myself about the riches of the church of St Anthony of Padua. I'd like to apologise to the authorities and the religious community of El Tanque. My intention wasn't to cause any damage when I began efforts to improve the church. I'm very sorry."

The incident had prompted an outcry from the local community with some calling for him to be replaced with another priest. Fellow clergy said they couldn't understand why he hadn't known about the significance of the frescoes in his own church. But it's believed they've since forgiven him and conservation experts are now seeing whether the paintings can be saved.

The Mayor of El Tanque Esther Morales, also welcomed Fr Hector's apology.

He told El Dia: "We just hope that everything can get back to normal as soon as possible. But we need to wait for the report from the regional government's heritage department to see what the damage is. We hope it can be repaired."

Fr Hector added: "We're now in the hands of God and of those with the right knowledge."



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