Research into Norfolk’s medieval churches has discovered pieces of graffiti that could be up to 500 years old.
The drawings, which have been identified by the Norfolk Medieval Graffiti Survey, were made on buildings including Binham Priory in the north of the county and feature designs including a sailing ship, spiral patterns and a demon-like figure.
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(All images courtesy of Norfolk Medieval Graffiti Survey)
A compilation of compass drawn circles, and variants found in many of the churches surveyed to date. It is believed that these are ritual protection marks designed to ward off the ‘evil eye’.
Although crosses would hardly seem an unusual find in a medieval church, the vast majority of examples are located in church porches, suggesting a specific ritual use.
Footprints and handprints have been recorded at a number of sites, including the example here from Ludham church. They are believed to be devotional in nature, but their exact meaning remains unclear.
Heraldic inscriptions are fairly common finds in East Anglian churches, like this example from Ludham church. However, without any colour it is often impossible to identify the family.
These compass-drawn designs are common finds and are regarded as ritual protection, or ‘apotropaic’, markings – designed to ward off the evil eye or demons.
Ship graffiti has been recorded in dozens of churches, not just those near the coast. Many are devotional in nature and may have been prayers for a voyage safely undertaken, or for a voyage yet to come.
Fish, birds and animals are common subjects for early graffiti.
Abthorpe’s family held the manor of Troston in the late 15th century. This piece of graffiti can be found in the tower arch of the church.
The inside of the porch at Great Walsingham church is inscribed with several little pictures of harps. The motif has also been recorded at several other Norfolk churches – but its meaning remains a mystery.