Preserving Medieval Graffiti

st-georgeWe have all read about the Middle Ages, right? A time of kings, princes, knights and fair damsels in distress. It is a vision of the past that includes the splendor of great cathedrals and the brooding darkness of mighty castles. A past of banquets and battles.

There’s only one thing wrong with that vision: 95% of the people were not a part of it.

Most men, women and children were commoners. 95 per cent of the population performed about 99% of the work. This undoubtedly includes your ancestors and mine.

We rarely read about the 95% of the population who were common people. With low levels of literacy throughout much of the Middle Ages, these people did not leave written records behind. The few texts that described the common people were actually written and compiled by the priests, scribes and lawyers of the elite. They refer to the lower orders, but are most certainly not in their own words. However, many of these common folks did leave something written behind: graffiti.

Specialists have been studying medieval church graffiti for many decades. But new digital imaging technologies, and the recent establishment of numerous volunteer recording programmes, have transformed its scope and implications. The inscriptions number in the hundreds of thousands, and they are opening an entire new world of research.

You can read more about the lifestyles of the Middle Ages in an article by Matthew Champion in the AEON.co web site at https://goo.gl/OIWgqC.

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