Book Series Contextualizing the Sacred, vol. 11

Cultic Graffiti in the Late Antique Mediterranean and Beyond

Bryan Ward - Perkins, Antonio E. Felle (eds)

  • Pages: xx + 192 p.
  • Size:216 x 280 mm
  • Illustrations:108 b/w, 21 col.
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2021

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-59311-1
  • Paperback
  • Available
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-59332-6
  • E-book
  • Available

A volume that collects and discusses the graffiti, scratched or drawn on religious shrines in the first centuries of Christianity and Islam, by ordinary men and women, seeking the help of their God and their favoured saints.


“This collection is an excellent overview of the stated subject of the volume.” (Peter Keegan, in Bryn Mawr Classical Review, 11/11/2022)

“The volume concludes with a useful bibliography, a manuscript index, and general indices of medieval and modern authors that together help the reader navigate through the variety of approaches showcased here. This book not only brings novelty but also reveals the great potential for new perspectives one can encounter before and after Wyclif.” (Monica Brinzei, in The Medieval Review, 4/11/2022)

“The volume is well-edited, each piece stands on its own and contributes to the whole.” (Caroline Goodson, in Medieval Archaeology, 66/2, 2022, p. 497)

“The volume provides valuable insights into the creation and intent of graffiti, which can be viewed as “the most private form of ‘displayed texts’ and the most ‘public’ form of individual texts” (p. 178).” (Claire Nesbitt, in Antiquity, 97, 2023, p. 262)

“Overall, the volume repays reading most of the essays if one is interested in pilgrimage generally, with Whiting, Imbert, and Van der Vliet the most useful for the comparative or historical value of their observations. This is an essential book for any research library.” (David Frankfurter, in Church History, 2023, p.695)


Bryan Ward-Perkins is a Professor of History at the University of Oxford and Principal Investigator of the ERC-funded Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity project, which is examining and making available on-line the evidence for saintly cult from its origins in the 4th century up to around AD 700..

Antonio Felle is a Professor of Archaeology and Epigraphy at the Università degli Studi ‘Aldo Moro’ di Bari, an expert on the Christian epigraphy of Rome, and Director of the on-line Epigraphic Database Bari, which collects and makes available the epigraphic evidence for early Christianity.


Graffiti, scratched or drawn on the walls of religious shrines, provide unique unmediated evidence of how ordinary men and women, many of them pilgrims, invoked and sought the help of God and the saints in Late Antiquity.  The papers in this volume document and discuss cultic graffiti across the entire late antique Mediterranean, and into Nubia and Arabia.  The principal focus is the Christian world, but there are also papers that look back to pre-Christian practice, and into the world of early Islam.  Presenting evidence that is often unfamiliar, this is an important volume for anyone interested in the History and Archaeology of Late Antiquity.  In examining cultic practice, we are almost always compelled to view the actions of devotees through texts written by the ecclesiastical elite, often with a clear hagiographical agenda in mind – cultic graffiti are evidence produced by the protagonists themsleves.


List of Illustrations



Graffiti in Religious Spaces in First-Century Pompeii: Lararia, Neighborhood Shrines, and Graffiti in the Early Roman Empire — REBECCA BENEFIEL

Contextualizing Christian Pilgrim Graffiti in the Late Antique Holy Land — MARLENA WHITING

Jewish Devotional Graffiti and dipinti in the Holy Land — LEAH DI SEGNI

‘Slave of the Apostle Philip’: Byzantine Graffiti from Hierapolis of Phrygia (Turkey) — FRANCESCO GUIZZI

Late Antique Christian Graffiti: The Case of Rome (Third to Fifth Century CE) — ANTONIO E. FELLE

At the Origins of European Pilgrimage: The Devotional Graffiti of the Anglo-Saxons in Rome (Seventh-Ninth Centuries) — CARLO CARLETTI

Inscribing Space in Christian Egypt — JACQUES VAN DER VLIET

Graffiti from Christian Egypt and the Cult of the Saints: A Case Study from Dayr Abū Ḥinnis — ALAIN DELATTRE

Pilgrims and Seafarers: A Survey of Travellers’ Graffiti from the Aegean Islands — PAWEŁ NOWAKOWSKI

Associational Religion in Late Antiquity? Professional Groups, Factions, and Confraternities in Christian Cultic Graffiti — EFTHYMIOS RIZOS

Religious Graffiti from Early Islam in Arabia and the Near East — FRÉDÉRIC IMBERT

Cultic Graffiti in Christian Nubia (Sixth to Fifteenth Century) — ADAM ŁAJTAR

Inscriptions, Graffiti, Graffiti Devotionis Causa: Some Concluding Notes and Reflections — ANTONIO E. FELLE

Graffiti and Religion: Some Concluding Remarks and Perspectives — BRYAN WARD-PERKINS