Lecture by Carlo Tedeschi on Medieval Graffiti

13 October 2016 from 17:15 to 19:00

In the lecture series of the Utrecht Centre for Medieval Studies (UCMS), Prof. dr.Carlo Tedeschi (‘Gabriele d’Annunzio’ University, Italy) will give a lecture on “Medieval Graffiti: A Neglected Historical Source“, followed by a short response by Dr Elisa Pallottini (Department of History and Art History).

Graffiti are writings or drawings scrawled, scratched or sprayed illicitly on a wall or other surface in a public space (Oxford Dictionary). As opposed to this modern definition, graffiti in Antiquity and the Middle Ages are not necessarily illicit, nor public. On the contrary, they are one of the mediums to express one’s faith or to fix memorable events of a given community, in meaningful places, mainly sacred ones. Therefore, they can be considered an important source for knowledge of the religious mentality and more generally of the attitude that communities assumed when faced with events of critical importance.

Furthermore, graffiti can provide first-hand information on the evolution of languages, on the history and development of particular scripts, on non professional writing practices and on the social uses of art-work. Despite the wealth of historical information graffiti can offer, scholarly literature still considers them a minor source. Our itinerary through graffiti will run through the centuries from Late Antiquity to the late Middle Ages, and will mainly focus on Italian cases.


To stimulate debate the following literature is recommended (but not obligatory):

  • V. Plesch, ‘Using or Abusing? On the Significance of Graffiti on Religious Mural Paintings’, in: Urbano Afonso and Serrão (eds.), Out of the Stream (Cambridge 2007) pp. 42-68.

Please contact f.c.w.goosmann@uu.nl if you are interested in a copy of this publication.


Download the lecture series programme (pdf)


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