|Museum courtyard. the graffiti are located on the upper loggia|
During a recent visit to the newly reopened Civic Museum in Viterbo a series of graffiti caught my attention: they include designs and phrases scratched into the plaster by a prisoner, one Nicolo, son of Francesco Bartoli, from the town of Barchi, near Fano in the Marche.
|Etruscan heads welcome visitors to the Museo Civico|
When the outside wall enclosing the cloister’s upper level was removed and the roof level raised sometime in the past 200 years, these graffiti were re-discovered but the area was closed off to the public until the most recent update a few months ago.
See the photos of my recent presentation at the Museum.
|Etruscan sarcophaghi and bucchero ware|
The convent and adjoining church S. Maria della Verità have undergone many changes over the centuries: they were damaged during the bombings of World War II, and only a short time ago, the Museum was closed down for several years when a section of the ancient walls collapsed on to the street.
Finding graffiti in old Italian prisons is common, for the incarcerated had nothing to do to pass the time and used the walls of their cells as a canvas or diary. Visitors to the Doge’s Palace in Venice and Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome can visit graffiti filled cells and even my small city of Vetralla counts scores of graffiti in abandoned churches, historic sites and the building used as a prison, many of which have been studied by local paleographer, Carlo Tedeschi.
Viterbo’s Museo Civico graffiti are particularly interesting for the astronomical scenes depicting the planets: the moon is in the center and Mars, Mercury and Saturn in outer circles. There are Biblical scenes of David with his sling, sheep and holding Goliath’s head in a bag. There are other probable religious scenes too: an Annunciation with a bird (Holy Spirit) hovering over the Madonna.
|the Museum's explanation of the graffiti|
|Davidd (sic) holding head of Goliath ?|
While awaiting further research on the graffiti, we can only wonder what crime the young Nicolo committed to be imprisoned in Viterbo and why he created this fanciful world full of strange characters such as the enthroned figure in baggy bloomers (King/Pope?) flanked by angels.
Your clues, transcriptions and suggestions are welcome. Please share with friends who work in this sector.
|part of text|
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