AN UNFORTUNATE castle restoration in the province of Cádiz has gone viral, sparking criticism from all over the globe.
The 9th-century Matrera fortress in Villamartín, built by the Mediaeval Arabs and now in private hands, was declared a ruin three years ago after torrential rain had gradually eroded its foundations.
But its recent and necessary restoration has horrified townspeople, been ridiculed on national TV and even reached the British national press.
A full page in The Guardian carried the headline: “What the hell have they done?”, reflecting the same rhetorical question asked on Spain's channel six, La Sexta.
“It looks as though they've called in builders rather than restorers,” the presenter commented on the programme.
One local resident filmed on the show said 'they've really messed up', whilst a specialist local history association said it was 'very concerned', since heritage laws 'ban reconstructions' and the restorers should have 'just consolidated the rest of the tower which was left'.
A smooth concrete block wall has been built inside the two remaining sides of the castle, and not even in the same colour, as the 'before and after' photos on Twitter show (above left).
Historians from Villamartín say they have even been contacted by people from abroad who say they 'cannot understand why this silliness, or heritage massacres' are allowed.
The article in The Guardian likens the botched castle restoration to that of the 19th-century Ecce Homo fresco in the local church in Borja (Zaragoza province) by local 80-something amateur artist Cecilia Jiménez.
But the 'new-style' Ecce Homo, which Cecilia always maintains she had not finished when pictures of it went viral, has become a tourist attraction with a token ticket fee to enter the church and see it, with Ryanair offering flights to Zaragoza for €1 during the immediate aftermath, and cafés, bars and restaurants in Borja saying their trade had never been so good.
It is not thought the same will happen with the Matrera castle in Villamartín, however, and the architect who oversaw the restoration – Carlos Quevedo – has denied any similarities.
Describing the entire process as 'painstaking, professional and legal', the architect stresses that the castle is a protected heritage site.
He said the main aim was to stop the tower from falling down, but also to 'show the difference between new additions and the original structure', since if they were too alike it could have been considered an 'imitative reconstruction', which was illegal.
Quevedo said their objectives also included restoring the 'volume, texture and tone' which the castle, in its heyday, would have presented.
He concluded that 'while debate is always a good thing', people in general 'should check their facts' before being 'so quick to judge', since heritage restoration is a tricky business.
The British broadsheet article claims Spain suffers from 'serious' conservation problems, recalling how Madrid city hall pulled down its patron saint, San Isidro's house in 2002, despite its being a listed building, and that in 2007 after nearly 20 years of litigation, the Supreme Court ruled that the Roman amphitheatre in Sagunto, just north of Valencia, was 'over-restored' and should be put back in its previously-ruined condition.