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Leave no Trace?

Inoppy

New Member
Past OR future Camino
2021
Hey all,

I recently finished my trek from SJPDP to Santiago. A truly fantastic experience and I'm extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to do it. However, one thing that really surprised/irked me was the spectacular amount of graffiti on the trail that was clearly put there by pilgrims. While the approx 700km of occasional 'Michael Jackson' did give me a chuckle, I've always been used to the idea of 'leave no trace' while enjoying the outdoors.

Some of this was even pre meditated. Stickers of 'influencers' instagram handles had been pre printed and attached to signs in order to gain followers. Are people really that devoid of and hungry for attention that they're willing to deface the landscape to gain it?

Lots of christian writing too. "God will show you the way". While I tended to rely on my trusty app and yellow arrows to navigate the camino, rather than a higher power, I feel that your spiritual leaning should not give you the right to distastefully spray paint your beliefs on the walls of a city for locals to 'enjoy'.

The camino is a blast. The scenery is spectacular (sunrises in the meseta blew my mind). The food is great. The people are welcoming. The wine is.....oh how I loved the wine. If you are thinking of doing it, stop thinking and just go for it, but please respect the trail. I'm not too sure if we would accommodate the same level of graffiti in the likes of Yosemite or on the TMB so why do we cater for it on the camino?

Just my two euro cents. Would love to hear peoples opinion on this, it something that you've noticed or is it an overreaction on my part?

Buen Camino!
 
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davebugg

A Pilgrimage is time I spend praying with my feet
Past OR future Camino
2019
American backpackers, along with those in other countries, who grew up with the Leave No Trace philosophy are likely a small fraction of the hundreds of thousands who walk Camino Frances each year (COVID aside). Chances are pretty good that this cohort does not do much graffiti vandalism.

Since Caminos are not wilderness hikes and are undertaken by many people who would never consider doing wilderness backpacking, there is no anti-litter, leave no trace emphasis drilled into their minds as a pilgrim. People drag their behaviors and sensibilities with them as the leave home to walk from town to town.

The vandalism/graffiti annoys me, along with the ubiquitous tonnage of toilet paper lying around the route, so it isn't just you :). In fact, if you enter 'graffiti', 'litter', or 'toilet paper' into the Forum search engine, you will find a large body of threads devoted to this sad practice.
 
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SabineP

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
some and then more. see my signature.
Hi @Inoppy and welcome here! No I do not think you are overreacting at all and I do share your sentiments.
There have already been some threads about this topic ( you can type in graffiti in the right upper searchbar here on the forum ).

But premeditated stickers from " influencers" to get followers for their Instagram!? I know some of them on social media are hungry for attention but this is taking it to another level. Well, it seems " Influencer " is now also a " a real job ' and people get actually paid by companies if they promote products throught their Instagram. The mind boggles!

Most importantly : you got to enjoy one of the spectacular sunrises on the Meseta! :)
 

MichaelB10398

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
2022
In many ways we need to teach our young what is and what is not beauty. When there is no instruction or exposure to the beautiful, things can get twisted easily. I realize this flies in the face of the old saying, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder", but it does not take a rocket scientist to observe some ugly things that are supposed to be art.
I despise graffiti and have never enjoyed it regardless of where it is found. It defaces everything it touches, and I don't understand anyone that feels it is necessary to deface the property of others.
I have gone on too much. Sorry, but this is one of my soap boxes.
 
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peregrino_tom

Member
Past OR future Camino
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Hi Inoppy
for my two cents worth - I have a different take on this.

A vital part of my first camino (2008) was the unexpected interaction with all the mementos created/left behind by previous pilgrims. Finding and processing them became an important part of the mysterious adventure (for which I had done no prior planning) and within which I continually searched for clues about what the camino might mean - both to me and others.
Maybe the experience was more intense because there were no apps and practically no internet. Nearly everyone I met was a fellow first-timer and in November-December we relied (along with Brierley) on word-of-mouth and hearsay to work out what might lay ahead. Magical things seemed to happen - pilgrims we never expected to see again suddenly popped up, local people along the way provided unsolicited charity and kindness, people told fantastical but unverifiable stories about the camino and its people - some of which may have been true…
It somehow seemed important to be open to finding meaning in whatever was around us, almost in a superstitious way, as if therein lay clues for maintaining our good fortune in meeting each day’s new challenges.

I wondered at all kinds of missives, whether it was simple arrow and heart shaped stones laid on the path (and who had the time to stop and lay them!?!) or profound memorials for those pilgrims that had passed on the trail, which might be supplemented with candles and poems and ‘offerings’. Who was I to judge whether a miniature holy statue meant more to the provider than a little plastic superman with an arm missing?
I might not understand the meaning of a poem in a foreign language, or even the reason for leaving it there, but I could sense the act of expression.
Graffiti, particularly in tunnels - was sometimes beautifully crafted, other times indicating an obscure regional independence movement (with perhaps one night-time member with a spray can..) and other times just part of the nuisance phase of teenage growing up.
Influencers' stickers don’t sound like they are adding a whole lot of value to the camino experience - but who knows? It’s for each of us to determine our own sense of what is the wheat and what is the chaff.

I don’t see the parallel with Yosemite or TMB at all. I see the Camino Frances as being and offering something completely different to a Nature Trail. It’s about people and the journeys they are making (across 1000s of years) in an unfolding dialogue with their fore-runners (and themselves!).
For some, it provides a conduit for expression and yes, there’s a whole spectrum of this, as indeed there is a messy spectrum of humanity: from the malicious to the selfish to the superficial and all the way over to the profound - where people may be releasing loss, hopelessness, sadness by framing thoughts, beliefs and memories in the objects and words they deposit along the way.
And for the rest of us… it’s all there, the good the bad and the ugly, for us to ponder on as we walk, and to receive, in whatever measure we so choose.
 
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good_old_shoes

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Francés ('15, '19)
Via Coloniensis ('16)
Trier-Nancy + Le Puy-Fisterra ('17)
Aragonés ('18)
As was said before, the Camino is not a wilderness hike. It‘s a long walk, walked by many, many people of various backgrounds, going through civilisation: Cities, towns, villages, landscapes that have been shaped by humans through agriculture, industry and so on.

Graffiti has been around for thousands of years throughout human history, it‘s unlikely to suddenly stop. It is a form of communication, a debatable one, maybe, but very human. Where there are many people, it is likely you‘ll find some form of it, somewhere.


Probably not a popular opinion, but for me, it depends on where the graffiti is placed and what it is about.


The classic "I was here" or advertisements for someones Instagram or taxi service, that destroy waymarkers, public road signs, shelters or peoples homes and houses are of course a disgrace.

But, personally, I prefer to walk through a tunnel or under a highway bridge that is full of very human messages, mainly positive ones, than watching the bare, soulless concrete that was never intended to have any beauty from the beginning… often in the middle of nowhere, cutting through the countryside, an eyesore already with or without graffiti!

"Leave no trace" is what I do and try to communicate to others – no matter where. But there have been occasions where a graffiti still touched me deeply, and some are still on my mind from time to time, years later.

That is no excuse for vandalism, of course. But there are different sides to everything, even something like this.


(No tolerance for littering, though. Sadly there are too many people out there who to this day and age still don‘t know that even paper and banana peels can take years to decompose, depending on the climate and spot… How often did I have that discussion with friends and families: „but it‘s all natural, it will be compost very soon, no problem!“ Sigh!)


Take your litter with you. Always. Don‘t do graffiti. Ever. But still – it‘s part of human nature that it occurs. Getting upset about it won‘t change anything, only a different attitude and education.
 
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Judy's Way

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Autumn (2015) and Spring (2019)
There was such a stark difference between walking the Camino Primitivo where we saw no graffiti in 2019 and the Camino Frances where everything was plastered with it - at least between Melide and Santiago. Why anyone would come to the Camino armed with thick markers so that they could write meaningless things such as “I’m not lost; are you?” is beyond me.
 

stevelm1

Recovering Perigrino
Past OR future Camino
CF 2015, CP 2019, Jakobswege Germany 2022 or 23.
I too am OK with graphitti in the tunnels, some of it is quite nice, but not on trail markers or street signs or walls of folks homes or barns. I think there is a big difference between these. To me much graphitti is disrespectful both in its appearance and where it is placed. When I entered Galicia in 2015 they had just repainted the marker that I am sure many of you will recognize. I much preferred it un-defaced as I found it. Leaving stones and mementos at monuments is also a tradition that I support at any shrine along the way. Of course I am only one pilgram and can't demand anyone do as I say, but I can be hopeful for respect from other pilgrims for the trail.

PA160484.JPG
 

Faye Walker

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
CF 2014, CF 2018, CP 2019 from Coimbra
I am ambivalent about graffiti — some 35 years took a course that addressed it as a mode of political communication — even the banal stuff. I am not always convinced, and yet I do have to pause and at least consider that so many young people create so much of it because they have so few opportunities otherwise… some days I am more convinced than others about this perspective…

But, having been a young person during 1980’s Basque uprisings (and an Irish citizen who owes my passport to the Irish rebels of 1916), I was embarrassed at my own forgetful ignorance when I encountered graffiti between SJPdP and Estrella that would remind pilgrims in particular that “This is not Spain” or “This is the Basque Region”… and I had to pause and think, and pay attention to what I had forgotten…

It was, and it remains, a very powerful part of my pilgrimage experiences.

I can certainly do without the more trite messages that are meant to be “uplifting”, and some of the stuff I certainly find inane… but I leave open the possibility that graffiti is born of the same impulses that decorated Lascaux 20,000 years ago, and Atapuerca over thousands of years…

If some sentient being 20,000 years from now finds the layers and layers of imprint left behind on what remains of this planet, they might well learn that we entertained ourselves to death (as Neil Postman warned we would). Probably not a bad lesson… even if I am engaged only in speculation about one possible outcome.
 
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RJM

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
A few times
The stickers, while rude and pretty much just plain dumb, deteriorate and disappear. The actual painted/permanent marker graffiti is unfortunately there for years unless removed using solvents and cleaners, perhaps even at times sandblasted off.
If one looks at the graffiti from simply a technical point it is a criminal act. To paint/mark up somebody else's property (even public property) without permission is against the law. That being said I personally find it to be rude and childish and wonder about the mentality of someone who takes the extra step of carrying with them on the Camino paint, stickers or permanent markers just for that purpose. Really? Comically sad I think, and perhaps that need for attention could even be looked upon as psychological problems. I can honestly say seeing graffiti has never motivated me to continue walking the Camino, or to push on stronger :D . I do not need some childish loser with a can of black spray paint to motivate me. There's nothing profound in their ignorant scrawl. Hardly compares to ancient primitive cave art. Quite a stretch to try and find similarities there.
Then there's the issue of how it makes all pilgrims look to the locals. Makes us look bad, especially visitors to the country. Small percentage of rotten apples thank goodness.
I will never forget my disgust at seeing what graffiti vandals did upon reaching the top of Alto del Perdon. Ugh.
and yes, I really dislike the practice of leaving piles of poop and poop paper along the Way. Disgusting, but fortunately temporary.
El Camino day 4-3 (17).jpg
 

Smallest_Sparrow

Life is rarely what you expect or believe it to be
Past OR future Camino
2012: most of some, all of a few, a bit of others
Graffiti, a means of communication by limited intellect for limited intellect. I longed to have a Tshirt for the last 100 km with a certain person’s name covered by a red circle slash. I imagined the police collecting him and marching him all the way back, with him carrying bucket, scrub brush and soap, to erase his stupid name from every marker. I think I could sell T shirts that have the word graffiti with a circle slash on the back, and perhaps “No TP left behind” on the front.
hmmm
Etsy here I come
 

henrythedog

Loved and fed by David
Past OR future Camino
Frances 2017, 2018, 2019, Ingles 2018, (Madrid 2019 partial - retired hurt!) (more planned)
The stickers, while rude and pretty much just plain dumb, deteriorate and disappear. The actual painted/permanent marker graffiti is unfortunately there for years unless removed using solvents and cleaners, perhaps even at times sandblasted off.
If one looks at the graffiti from simply a technical point it is a criminal act. To paint/mark up somebody else's property (even public property) without permission is against the law. That being said I personally find it to be rude and childish and wonder about the mentality of someone who takes the extra step of carrying with them on the Camino paint, stickers or permanent markers just for that purpose. Really? Comically sad I think, and perhaps that need for attention could even be looked upon as psychological problems. I can honestly say seeing graffiti has never motivated me to continue walking the Camino, or to push on stronger :D . I do not need some childish loser with a can of black spray paint to motivate me. There's nothing profound in their ignorant scrawl. Hardly compares to ancient primitive cave art. Quite a stretch to try and find similarities there.
Then there's the issue of how it makes all pilgrims look to the locals. Makes us look bad, especially visitors to the country. Small percentage of rotten apples thank goodness.
I will never forget my disgust at seeing what graffiti vandals did upon reaching the top of Alto del Perdon. Ugh.
and yes, I really dislike the practice of leaving piles of poop and poop paper along the Way. Disgusting, but fortunately temporary.
View attachment 107307
I agree with all the above - but who chose to install the incongruous metal tableau in the first place?
 

Smallest_Sparrow

Life is rarely what you expect or believe it to be
Past OR future Camino
2012: most of some, all of a few, a bit of others
There was such a stark difference between walking the Camino Primitivo where we saw no graffiti in 2019 and the Camino Frances where everything was plastered with it - at least between Melide and Santiago. Why anyone would come to the Camino armed with thick markers so that they could write meaningless things such as “I’m not lost; are you?” is beyond me.
Hard to spray paint a cow.
 
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Smallest_Sparrow

Life is rarely what you expect or believe it to be
Past OR future Camino
2012: most of some, all of a few, a bit of others

Smallest_Sparrow

Life is rarely what you expect or believe it to be
Past OR future Camino
2012: most of some, all of a few, a bit of others

henrythedog

Loved and fed by David
Past OR future Camino
Frances 2017, 2018, 2019, Ingles 2018, (Madrid 2019 partial - retired hurt!) (more planned)
I’m sorry, it was a rhetorical question and I didn’t make that clear. I see little merit in most graffiti, but not all sculpture is to my taste either and the CF is sufficiently theme-parked already
 

Smallest_Sparrow

Life is rarely what you expect or believe it to be
Past OR future Camino
2012: most of some, all of a few, a bit of others
I’m sorry, it was a rhetorical question and I didn’t make that clear. I see little merit in most graffiti, but not all sculpture is to my taste either and the CF is sufficiently theme-parked already
I think sculpture speaks without words, and Mr Galbette depicted the history of the Camino beautifully (you did notice the figures changed from left to right at the time, right?), with more value than the nearby wind turbines, and neither statue nor turbines prevented getting a good view below. Graffiti is trash made by trash for trash. Sculpture is made for those who want to see a million words at once. my Camino would have been a barren place without it but I’m ok with us disagreeing
 
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Albertagirl

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances (2015); Aragones-Frances (2016); VdlP-Sanabres (2017); Madrid-Frances-Invierno (2019)Levante
I find both graffiti and litter ugly and destructive and I have served as a ditch pig to try to clear up some of it. But I personally make one exception for this judgement: the small paper signs posted on trees or other places along camino routes providing taxi numbers for persons who wish, or need, a taxi in that locality. As a pilgrim who always walks alone, I consider this to be a type of public service announcement: "If you need me, I am here," There might have been similar notices posted in an albergue where I stayed, but I did not see them usually. A small notice of taxi service for a particular locality reassures me, and provides the offer of transport if I were unable to walk. I do not try to justify this in general: it just feels good to me to feel safe. And I know myself well enough to be sure that I would not call the emergency services for help except in a real crisis, and maybe past the point where I should have done so: a taxi is different, more approachable.
 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Past OR future Camino
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
I love the metal sculptures at Alto del Perdon! They were a real highlight for me and added one more joyful memory of walking the Camino Frances. I am thankful to have noticed no graffiti on them in 2015 and 2017...and do not see them as incongruous.
 

Judy's Way

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Autumn (2015) and Spring (2019)
Graffiti, a means of communication by limited intellect for limited intellect. I longed to have a Tshirt for the last 100 km with a certain person’s name covered by a red circle slash. I imagined the police collecting him and marching him all the way back, with him carrying bucket, scrub brush and soap, to erase his stupid name from every marker. I think I could sell T shirts that have the word graffiti with a circle slash on the back, and perhaps “No TP left behind” on the front.
Good idea. Christine Monika, and Fred from France should be marched back with a scrub brush and soap, too.
 

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Smallest_Sparrow

Life is rarely what you expect or believe it to be
Past OR future Camino
2012: most of some, all of a few, a bit of others
I find both graffiti and litter ugly and destructive and I have served as a ditch pig to try to clear up some of it. But I personally make one exception for this judgement: the small paper signs posted on trees or other places along camino routes providing taxi numbers for persons who wish, or need, a taxi in that locality. As a pilgrim who always walks alone, I consider this to be a type of public service announcement: "If you need me, I am here," There might have been similar notices posted in an albergue where I stayed, but I did not see them usually. A small notice of taxi service for a particular locality reassures me, and provides the offer of transport if I were unable to walk. I do not try to justify this in general: it just feels good to me to feel safe. And I know myself well enough to be sure that I would not call the emergency services for help except in a real crisis, and maybe past the point where I should have done so: a taxi is different, more approachable.
I agree, and in fact each time I saw one I took a picture just in case I needed a taxi a few miles down the road. I figured if they posted the notice they were OK with calls from pilgrims with terrible accents and only a vague idea where they were, and knew the Camino well enough to find me. I also never saw their numbers written on way markers just taped to a tree
 

Judy's Way

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Autumn (2015) and Spring (2019)
The stickers, while rude and pretty much just plain dumb, deteriorate and disappear. The actual painted/permanent marker graffiti is unfortunately there for years unless removed using solvents and cleaners, perhaps even at times sandblasted off.
If one looks at the graffiti from simply a technical point it is a criminal act. To paint/mark up somebody else's property (even public property) without permission is against the law. That being said I personally find it to be rude and childish and wonder about the mentality of someone who takes the extra step of carrying with them on the Camino paint, stickers or permanent markers just for that purpose. Really? Comically sad I think, and perhaps that need for attention could even be looked upon as psychological problems. I can honestly say seeing graffiti has never motivated me to continue walking the Camino, or to push on stronger :D . I do not need some childish loser with a can of black spray paint to motivate me. There's nothing profound in their ignorant scrawl. Hardly compares to ancient primitive cave art. Quite a stretch to try and find similarities there.
Then there's the issue of how it makes all pilgrims look to the locals. Makes us look bad, especially visitors to the country. Small percentage of rotten apples thank goodness.
I will never forget my disgust at seeing what graffiti vandals did upon reaching the top of Alto del Perdon. Ugh.
and yes, I really dislike the practice of leaving piles of poop and poop paper along the Way. Disgusting, but fortunately temporary.
View attachment 107307
When I left the albergue in Granon, I took one of the yellow bags that read: “Fill your ‘Camino’ with experiences and free it from litter.” I thought: Why not? I was happy to do my part at cleaning up the Camino for a day or even a few hours. The only problem is that once I got started, I couldn’t stop and it was impossible to ignore. And there was a lot of garbage - some of it was too disgusting to pick up. This is why I prefer not to walk the Camino Frances any more. The Primitivo and del Norte are the roads less travelled and are cleaner.
 

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Camino Way Markers
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RJM

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
A few times
I’m sorry, it was a rhetorical question and I didn’t make that clear. I see little merit in most graffiti, but not all sculpture is to my taste either and the CF is sufficiently theme-parked already
Yes, everyone has different tastes in art, but without a doubt that pilgrim sculpture was erected on top of that hill with the permission of whatever or whomever owns or controls the property. Nobody snuck up there and anonymously built it. No laws were broken. Nobody damaged property not belonging to them. I'm not sure I see a comparison with that sculpture and say a Camino distance marker stone covered with spray paint graffiti.
 

Kathar1na

Member
Past OR future Camino
To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
everyone has different tastes in art, but without a doubt that pilgrim sculpture was erected on top of that hill with the permission of whatever or whomever owns or controls the property. Nobody snuck up there and anonymously built it. No laws were broken. Nobody damaged property not belonging to them. I'm not sure I see a comparison with that sculpture and say a Camino distance marker stone covered with spray paint graffiti.
Exactly.

BTW, the artwork on the Alto del Perdon was commissioned by the electricity company that owns the windmills, EHN - Energía Hidroeléctrica de Navarra -, with the support of the Navarra Friends of the Camino association. 1996.

I must say that my life would not be poorer if there were none of the many modern sculptures erected to honour me and other pilgrims old and new along the caminos in Spain and elsewhere but, ok, they are there and people like to pose with them and to photograph them, and there will no doubt be even more in future. So I can Iive with them in the landscape and in the towns and cities but I loathe the brainless stuff sprayed and scribbled along the Camino Frances on everything that has a usable surface and that includes the "messages" that some people felt compelled to share. Why there? Can they not be content with posting their stuff on Facebook?

As to graffiti throughout the ages mentioned in other posts? Usually you need to look for it with a magnifying glass and wouldn't know that it is there if your tour guide or your guidebook didn't tell you. It is rarely the kind of "in your face" graffiti everywhere as it is the case in our age of easy mass communication.
 
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Faye Walker

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
CF 2014, CF 2018, CP 2019 from Coimbra
I suspect that just as Plato complained about “kids these days” that there would have been complaints in contemporary settings in the Empire about graffit… and yet the archeologists and linguists are grateful. I find the accessible account here to be most enjoyable and fascinating:
What Ancient Graffiti in Pompeii can Teach Us

Who knows what will survive of our imprints on camino (or otherwise). I have never graffitied anything in my life, not do I intend to. I did participate in painting “blast shadows” with whitewash that would wash away in the rain; it was for a demonstration organized by the Physicians for Social Responsibility, on the 40th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. I know that records of our demonstration will not survive, but the scars of the blast and all the scars of human cruelties will mark the planet indelibly. If someone wants to paint an inspirational bit of blather that I cannot help but read along the way, well far less harm done by that than by the land mines still buried all over the planet… Of the things we can leave behind… a glib “nota bene” scribbled in the margins of an illuminated manuscript, or a greeting on a wall seem more useful (and of a different order than litter, TP, exclement)…

I have a colleague who specializes in the swearing of oaths in the Roman Empire, but her recent research… as a classicist who works in Latin and Ancient Greek… relies on 2 sources of information: tomb etchings, and the graffiti of the civis.

It’s not that I’m in love with what people scrawl with Sharpies… it’s that the impulse is there for so many humans, apparently always has been, and has a powerful value for contemporary scholarly appreciation of the past. A record made by ordinary people —- not unlike the record out of which the archeological museum in Astorga recreates quotidian life for a slave woman and her suitor (using a tomb etching as the source).
 

Flog

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
2021
As to graffiti throughout the ages mentioned in other posts? Usually you need to look for it with a magnifying glass and wouldn't know that it is there if your tour guide or your guidebook didn't tell you. It is rarely the kind of "in your face" graffiti everywhere as it is the case in our age of easy mass communication.
The graffiti uncovered under centuries of grime on a section of the wall of the cathedral in Seville if it hasn't been mentioned already, is an interesting example. Apparently written (not scrawled?) by medieval student graduates in bull's blood...
 
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Kathar1na

Member
Past OR future Camino
To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
The graffiti uncovered under centuries of grime on a section of the wall of the cathedral in Seville if it hasn't been mentioned already, is an interesting example. Apparently written (not scrawled?) by medieval student graduates in bull's blood...
That's interesting and I didn't know about it. I tried to learn a bit more about it. Apparently it was something that started with the University of Salamanca and then spread to other university towns in Spain. Later than the Middle Ages.They are called Vítores or Victores in Spanish. Most of them are official but those on the walls of the Cathedral of Seville are considered as "signs of incivility today", I read in an article. I can't figure out how they were regarded at the time in the 19th century. Does anyone know?

Even today the overwhelming majority of the taggers still shy away from the walls of religious buildings.
 
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Faye Walker

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
CF 2014, CF 2018, CP 2019 from Coimbra
The graffiti uncovered under centuries of grime on a section of the wall of the cathedral in Seville if it hasn't been mentioned already, is an interesting example. Apparently written (not scrawled?) by medieval student graduates in bull's blood...

Neat… I will have to look that up. Thank you.

Someone shared a while back some interesting architectural information about the interior arches in the cathedral, leading to the sacristy IIRC. The point made in the documentary about the embellishments was that many people ignore them, but that such carvings told important narratives to attendees at the time. This observation reminded me of the story about the main entry to the church at Arzua and the matter of the quesa de tetillas made in Arzua: there’s what the church officials want, the sense of humour of the sculptor, and then after the “correction”, the humorous (and delicious) rebellion of the local population.

I shall look around to see if I can find the link to that information about the many many dishes of food carved into the passageway in the Seville Cathedral.

History indicates to me that humans tend to fall off the plot very quickly, that the subtleties of visual narrative and deep cultural literacy are easily lost… That many tourists to the great buildings and galleries do not even notice the *subtleties* of art/sculpture… and that the stories told in the stained glass masterpieces now require scholars to translate for us what the ordinary people knew in days when the written word belonged to very few.

I cannot glean anything much from stained glass… one bearded man in a simple robes looks as another to me. It is only by the presence of an animal or a woman that I can glean which part of the New Testament basics I am looking at… And I swear that I was the *worst* child in the congregation for not knowing which station of the cross I was sitting near during mass…

In graduate school, I had the privilege of being allowed to handle 500 year old medical manuscripts from the Osler Library at McGill… and I was grateful to the readers who had left their marks in the margins, a kind of “graffiti” to the mind of some librarians, but not to those who study such texts. I valued having a view of what the books’ first owners had thought important.
All of which is to say something like: it’s far far easier to get riled up about contemporary scrawl that we understand than it is to *comprehend* and to fully appreciate the visual narratives of centuries past.

That is why I have so enjoyed discussions here that have focussed on art and architecture, on archeological finds, and so on… I wish we could collectively put more effort into those threads. And I wish that the speculative reconstruction of daily life in Roman Astorga were available as a film that I could link to for this discussion.

Instead, I shall just encourage those with the opportunity to visit the museum there… to see what the curators have created from a mix of a gravesite inscription, and graffiti left across the empire for clues…
 

Flog

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
2021
Yes, I remember being told that, and also that the use of bull's blood would have set them apart as scholars of financial means and of superior intellect (in their own mind's anyway). No doubt it was regarded by mere mortals at the time with the same horror and disgust that every defiled camino marker in galicia is today. Curious that it's cherished now!

I am curious about one other thing: Has the writing on the walls really endured the passage of time or was it enhanced or 'restored' since it's discovery? I seem to remember it looked very faded a few years ago..
 

Faye Walker

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
CF 2014, CF 2018, CP 2019 from Coimbra
Yes, I remember being told that, and also that the use of bull's blood would have set them apart as scholars of financial means and of superior intellect (in their own mind's anyway). No doubt it was regarded by mere mortals at the time with the same horror and disgust that every defiled camino marker in galicia is today. Curious that it's cherished now!

I am curious about one other thing: Has the writing on the walls really endured the passage of time or was it enhanced or 'restored' since it's discovery? I seem to remember it looked very faded a few years ago..
Fascinating question. I’m going to hit the archeology journals tomorrow to see if I can answer that!
 
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