Knights of Malta: tourists are ruining Prague's Lennon Wall with vulgar scribbling

A place that has been a symbol of freedom of speech for decades might see some rules imposed due to the actions of tourists

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 22.07.2019 13:59:09 (updated on 22.07.2019) Reading time: 3 minutes

The Lennon Wall on Prague’s Kampa island has been a place for messages of peace and love since the death of former Beatle John Lennon in 1980. But recently, it has been being filled with vulgarities, obscene pictures and nonsensical scribbling.

The Order of the Knights of Malta owns the wall. They say that tour guides are offering tourists a chance to write on the wall as part of their tours, and even supplying spray paint and markers. Graffiti has now even spread to the trees surrounding the wall.

A place that has
been a symbol of freedom of speech for decades might have to see some
rules imposed due to the actions of tourists.

lennon wall
Scribbling and random phrases on the Lennon Wall. via Raymond Johnston

A criminal notice
against an unknown person for suspicion of violation of property
rights was filed by a lawyer for the Knights of Malta at the
beginning of July.

“We have been
unhappy about what’s going on around the Lennon Wall in recent
months. What was originally a magical place is being destroyed by
vandals who scribble on the wall with nonsense and often vulgarity,”
Johannes Lobkowicz, Chancellor of the Czech Grand Priory of the Order
of the Knights of Malta, said.

“We want to do something about it. During the summer, we will introduce a concept for returning the wall to a dignified state,” Lobkowicz said.

lennon wall
Graffiti by environmental activists. via Raymond Johnston

The order says that
there has been a big increase in tourists at the wall since the
beginning of this year, and tour guides have been encouraging
graffiti without warning people that it is illegal.

The Maltese Knights
are taking more steps to stabilize the situation around the Lennon
Wall. A coordination meeting will soon take place with Prague 1 Mayor
of Pavel Čižinský (Praha 1 Sobě), representatives of the Knights
of Malta and a representative of an association of real estate

Prague 1 is also
preparing a campaign to warn tourists about inappropriate behavior
that bothers local residents, Prague l spokeswoman Kateřina
Písačková said, adding that the district wants to prevent improper
behavior through education.

lennon wall
Portrait of Václav Havel in March 2019. via Raymond Johnston

“We do not want this place to disappear due to current problems with undisciplined tourists. It has a considerable historical value, so we would like to warn visitors that certain types of behavior are annoying local residents, in whose interest the city district is acting,” she said.

The wall on one side
of an enclosed garden is owned by the Roman Catholic religious group
Sovereign Military Order of Malta, commonly called the Knights of
Malta. The group traces its roots back to the Crusades.

They have permitted graffiti there since the 1980s. John Lennon was murdered in December 1980, and the wall after that became filled with lyrics of Beatles songs and portraits of Lennon. It was a lone outpost for free speech for almost a decade.

lennon wall
Lennon Wall in March 2019. via Raymond Johnston

Before the Velvet
Revolution, authorities would often repaint the wall, but new
messages would soon appear.

The Lennon Wall was
in the news in 2014 when a group of art students painted the entire
wall white save for the phrase “Wall Is Over,” a variation on
Lennon’s “War Is Over” campaign from the early 1970s, related
to his 1972 song “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).”

The Knights of Malta
originally filed a criminal complaint against the students but later
dropped it. The wall quickly acquired new Beatles-themed graffiti.

The wall was painted white with the phrase Wall Is Over in November 2014. via Raymond Johnston

In March 2019, an
international group of artists, with permission, painted the wall
with messages in several languages to mark 30 years since the Velvet
Revolution, and added a large portrait of Václav Havel.

That didn’t last
long though, as a month later environmental activists took over the
wall with a new set of messages as part of an international action
against climate change, largely destroying the Havel portrait and
Velvet Revolution reminders.

On May 1, an unknown
artist helped to restore the wall to its original purpose with a
large portrait of Lennon in black and white, based on a classic

Two vandals from Germany recently painted graffiti on Charles Bridge, but were caught. they were sentenced to fines and expulsion.

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