Monday, September 10, 2012

The Graffiti Plague

Cosmatesque pavement, San Francesco,Vetralla 

Ever since  men began to scribble, design  and write  there have been graffiti. We see them in Pompeii  as well as on trains and public buildings around the world.  In some cases and  places  graffiti  have risen to the level of “street art”. 

Art or vandalism,  I doubt any one  enjoys riding in a train or subway where the windows have been completely sprayed over.

In Viterbo the walls of Santa Rosa  high school, frequented  mainly  by  girls,  had been the target for  teenage boys who continuously covered the walls with phrases, hearts and other graffiti,  hoping to impress  the girls.  

A strategy invented  by an intelligent city council member  has slowed down the graffiti problem... and almost wiped it out. 

The girls were asked   to invent poetic phrases  to discourage  their  "suitors" from scribbling and spraying on the walls.  It seems to have worked, yet unfortunately  the historic  convent facing the school building remains  disfigured.

The magnificent church of San Francesco here in Vetralla   was  a  recent victim  of the graffiti plague. On the day the Mille Miglie  bicycle race  passed  through town last spring, someone had the stupid idea of using a  can of bright green paint  on the church’s  ancient walls to wish  happy birthday to a  Rumanian fellow who lives across the street.

San Francesco is a jewel of a church dating from the 12th century with the  largest Franciscan  fresco cycle outside of Assisi  adorning its interior walls, Cosmatesque pavements and  a crypt dating back to 8th century. 

the interior of the church is completely frescoed , life of St. Frances, after F. Villamena 

Set in its walls and around the  front portal are marble columns and decorative bits  recycled from the nearby Roman site of Forum Cassii.

Here are a few photos taken while waiting for  a wedding   (Chiara and Luigi)  to begin at San Francesco. 

The  magical atmosphere created by the soft light, the  ancient frescoes and Cosmatesque marble floors is almost palpable.

Sant'Orsola and maidens, fresco attributed to  Il Vecchietta, 15th century

family and guests await the bride

Singer Susanna  and Don Luigi  waiting for the wedding to begin
  An bi-lingual  poster  is being readied and will soon be mounted on the exterior wall of the church.  It will give  an explanation of the church’s  history and art to visitors and passersby.  

If the graffiti  has not been removed  by then I propose  to  hide  it with this placard.

13th century funerary monument of Briobris by Paolo Romano

Hopefully through, education, emulation and by ostracizing these   modern day  barbarians who use  graffiti   to express themselves, the plague can be defeated. 

Do you know of other techniques used to combat  graffiti, perhaps in your town? We are eager  for your  insight and comments.