Read, Write, Run, Roam

Lennon vs. Lenin: The “Peace Wall” of Prague


Regular readers know I can’t resist a good spot of graffiti, much less an entire, city-sanctioned scrawl wall. Welcome to the Lennon Wall in Lesser Town, Prague.

Shortly after John Lennon’s death in 1980, an honorary tombstone was painted on a church wall in Lesser Town, Prague. This was no simple act of vandalism; both rock music and Lennon’s messages of peace were deemed subversive by communist authorities and carried penalties of jail (or worse).

Though the initial messages were quickly whitewashed, more graffiti appeared. Over the next decade anti-communist slogans, murals, and other messages became commonplace despite videocameras and security guards along the wall. The cycle of graffiti and whitewashing continued until the 1989 revolution. Years later the wall is still a pilgrimage site for vandals, though the graffiti runs more to self-help quotes than political dissidence.

These days the wall has lost its subversive edge and is more popular with tourists than anarchists. Church authorities have removed the “original” Lennon tombstone and repaired the wall for easier painting. I’ve also read that church authorities will whitewash over messages they deem to be inappropriate. If true, it’s an unfortunate infringement on the free speech the wall is meant to represent.

I couldn’t resist a shot at making my own mark on the wall, so after borrowing a marker from a backpacker, I hastily scribbled this:

Later, I realized that I had committed the worst kind of rookie mistake–coming to a graffiti wall unprepared. After some thought, and a desperate search for thick markers, I came to the wall with the next best thing: a blog logo and sidewalk chalk procured at the nearest convenient store.

It’s not exactly a political slogan, but it will have to do.

Prague visitors can visit/contribute to the wall at Velkopřevorské náměstí (Grand Priory Square), Malá Strana/Lesser Town, just off a footbridge by Kampa Park.

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