Graffiti in medieval and early modern religious spaces: illicit or accepted practice? | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online
Volume 131, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 0040-7518
  • E-ISSN: 2352-1163



Leaving one’s personal mark at a site of cult is an age-old practice attested in several religions, including Christianity from its earliest phases onwards. This article asks to what degree scratching graffiti into church walls was accepted behaviour in Western Europe during the medieval and early modern period. It seeks to complicate the view that disapproval of graffiti is a predominantly modern sentiment, by examining examples of both acceptance and resistance to graffiti at sacred sites. The attempts of Counter-Reformation bishop Carlo Bascapè (1550-1615) to root out what he perceived as impious vandalism at the of Varallo in Northern Italy, combined with an analysis of the graffiti on the glass panes of the chapel postdating Bascapè’s ban, together serve to suggest new directions for the study of the pre-modern significance of, and particularly resistance to, graffiti.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): graffiti; history of religion; material culture; sacred space; sacro monte
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