June meeting – Graffiti and Our Painted Past

Following our very well received May talk from Will Bowden on the the Romans in the land of the Iceni, in June we move forward to medieval times and welcome back Matt Champion with an update on ten years or more of looking very closely indeed at the interiors of our medieval and early modern churches.

The last decade has seen a massive increase in the study of early church graffiti, and the recording of tens of thousands of previously unknown inscriptions. Each year new and exciting examples come to light, and change the way in which we think about our surviving medieval churches, and the people who once worshipped in them.

But it isn’t just graffiti that was incised into the walls of our medieval churches. An unlooked for bonus to the search for graffiti across the regions churches has been the identification of markings used in the setting out of medieval wall paintings, and consecration crosses in particular. In some cases the pigment was lost many centuries ago, with only these setting out marks leaving us any clues as to what was once present. These marks are giving us new insights not only in to the way in which are churches were once decorated, but providing direct evidence of how the craftsmen went about the task of creating medieval wall paintings. The church walls may have been their canvas, but they were also their drawing boards, with these markings allowing us a far greater understanding of the medieval design process.

Perhaps the most interesting area of study is that where graffiti and pigment collide, and a small number of sites have been identified where early graffiti was deliberately cut into surviving medieval wall paintings. What these sites tell us is that the relationship between graffiti and pigment was far more intertwined than we had previously thought, With the graffiti being a direct reaction to the images in the paintings themselves. Taken together this new evidence all indicates that the inside of the average medieval church was a far more interactive space than previously imagined.

Since we’ve started our talks via Zoom we’ve had people join us from Germany, France, the States and Japan. Let’s see how far afield we get this time.

We’ll be meeting, again via Zoom, on Saturday June 12th at 2.00pm. You can book a ticket here.

1 Response

  1. Andrew Burtenshaw

    Will Matt Champions talk be available after the original event as we can’t make that date??
    Many thanks

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