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date: 22 September 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Although the study of medieval church graffiti inscriptions has a long pedigree, recent large-scale surveys have brought to light tens of thousands of previously unknown examples. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the new discoveries is the fact that the vast majority of these early graffiti, where intelligible, have been shown to have distinctly spiritual, devotional, or votive meaning. Whilst the most obvious of these take the form of prayers or invocations, sometimes written in the conventional Latin forms of the Orthodox Church, many others appear to have been created in non-traditional forms. Vast numbers of these early inscriptions appear to reflect aspects of lay piety and belief, having an apotropaic function, and represent a personal interaction between parishioner and the medieval church. Taken together they indicate that medieval graffiti were regarded as both accepted and acceptable forms of devotion.

Keywords: graffiti, medieval church, apotropaic, devotion, votive, belief, inscriptions, lay piety, ritual protection

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