Spanish nuns face fine for restoring church organ
A convent of Spanish nuns is facing a steep bill for having a priceless church organ repaired without the state's permission.
The sisters of Santa Ines in Seville, southern Spain, decided that the instrument in their convent church needed to be fixed, and accepted an offer from a local charity to have it restored it for free.
"It hasn't worked for 30 years, and we couldn't afford the estimated cost of more than 150,000 euros ($177,000; £135,000 )," Abbess Blanca Cervantes told the ABC de Sevilla newspaper. "We only make enough money from the sale of sweets to cover our bills and national insurance payments."
But the regional government of Andalusia did not see it that way, and has fined the convent a hefty 170,000 euros for the "unauthorised" work on the organ. It has, however, said it will let the charity finish the restoration work in time for Christmas.
The ornately-decorated instrument was built by 17th century master Perez Valladolid, and Andalusia's Ministry of Culture listed it as an Item of Cultural Significance in 1983. It is believed to be the inspiration for Gustavo Adolfo Becquer's celebrated story Maese Perez, the Organist.
The ministry insists it is simply applying the law, but is willing to show mercy to the sisters by offering to cut the fine to 102,000 euros if they settle and pay up outside of court.
But the Alqvimia Musicae Foundation that funded the restoration insists the nuns shall not pay a penny, and is planning a 19 November charity lunch to raise money for the fine.
"We remain calm, because we believe we have done nothing wrong," Mother Blanca told ABC.
Reporting by Alistair Coleman and Martin Morgan
Next story: NZ driver caught playing 'air bagpipes'
Use #NewsfromElsewhere to stay up-to-date with our reports via Twitter.