SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA, Spain – A much venerated and priceless 12th-century marble sculpture from the facade of Spain’s most iconic cathedral that was defaced by an unknown vandal was undergoing on Tuesday delicate restoration attempts using cutting-edge laser technology, sources from the temple’s administration told EFE.
Pilgrims flocking to the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral – the reputed burial place of the apostle St. James and a popular Catholic pilgrimage site since the Middle Ages – had found on Monday morning, to their shock, that a Romanesque statue on the cathedral’s southern Platerias facade had been painted over in blue with the logo of the American rock band KISS, while its face sported markings mimicking the feline-like makeup of the band’s ex-drummer, Peter Criss.
The Spanish government’s interior spokesman for the northwestern region of Galicia, Javier Losada, termed the act of vandalism an “attack on a world heritage site” and said he was confident the culprits would be found and brought to justice.
According to the cathedral’s dean, Segundo Perez, a first attempt at laser cleaning the statue had resulted in some light-blue tinges remaining on the marble’s veining, meaning that a second scouring would be needed to complete the restoration.
“The experts are using a very precise laser that is as fine as a paintbrush,” Perez said. “It’s very delicate work, but it won’t be any harder than the restoration of the Portico of Glory.”
The Portico of Glory, a masterpiece of Spanish Romanesque art, was created by Master Mateo’s workshop between 1168-88 AD and contains over 200 poly-chromed statues. Painstaking restoration work that had lasted over a decade concluded in June.
“It’s hard to find out who did this because there’s no security camera pointed at that exact spot of the facade,” Perez added.
Authorities are searching for the vandal or vandals and have asked for citizen cooperation in the manhunt.
If caught, the person(s) responsible for tarnishing the irreplaceable artwork would face a fine ranging between 6,001 and 150,000 euros (approximately $7,000-174,000), in accordance with Galicia’s regional heritage laws.
Statues on the cathedral have been revered for centuries by pilgrims who would sometimes walk hundreds of miles from countries across Europe to pay homage to them.