The permissibility of the practice of inscribing graffiti in Beverley Minster, with specific reference to the eastern side of the reredos

Hiscott, Rebecca

November 2015

Thesis or dissertation

© 2015 Rebecca Hiscott. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

This thesis provides an understanding of the nature of the practice of inscribing graffiti on the eastern side of the reredos in Beverley Minster in the medieval and early modern periods. It focuses on the types of graffiti that were inscribed when the upper platform of the reredos supported the shrine of Saint John of Beverley from c.1330 to 1540. This study shows that in order to interpret the meaning and significance of the graffiti for the individuals who inscribed them, it needs to be placed in a context where writing on walls was accepted and acceptable to both the clergy and the laity. The different categories of graffiti on the eastern side of the reredos are described and examined in detail.

A wide range of evidence are employed to provide a holistic interpretation of the rationale behind their inscription. Comparisons with the graffiti surviving in the nave at Beverley Minster; in parish churches situated within the Humber region; and in ecclesiastical buildings from other counties across England are drawn upon to facilitate a synthesis of the graffiti on the eastern side of the reredos. Literary evidence, numismatics and objects recorded by the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) are sources of evidence drawn upon throughout to supplement the lack of contextual information, and to place the practice of inscribing graffiti into a wider religious, social and cultural context. Among the types of graffiti studied are textual inscriptions, crosses, religious symbols, ships, merchants' marks and figures. The different types of graffiti are contextualised in thematic discussions based upon two aspects of religious culture, which show how graffiti can be simultaneously devotional and superstitious. In the process, this study enhances our knowledge of the ways in which individuals interacted with the fabric of church buildings on a physical level.

Department of History, The University of Hull
Fenwick, Helen, 1972-; Walker, John
Sponsor (Organisation)
Arts & Humanities Research Council (Great Britain)
Qualification level
Qualification name
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