Lennon Wall book published marking 40th anniversary of the former Beatle’s death

The wall on Prague’s Kampa island played a significant role in protests before the Velvet Revolution.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 08.12.2020 12:14:00 (updated on 08.12.2020) Reading time: 3 minutes

Former Beatle John Lennon died 40 years ago in New York City. While he never visited Prague, the Lennon Wall has long been one of the city’s popular tourist attractions.

The wall at the garden of the Embassy of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, commonly called the Knights of Malta, has been a location for free speech since before the Velvet Revolution.

To mark the anniversary of Lennon’s death, the Museum of Memory XX Century has published a book called Lennonova zeď v Praze (Lennon Wall in Prague). The 536 page book, in Czech, was written by Petr Blažek, Filip Pospíšil and Roman Laube. It contains interviews, studies and documents relating to the wall, and a large appendix of pictures.

A debate featuring the authors of the book, also in Czech, was recorded at the Werich Villa, located near the wall. It will be streamed at 8 p.m. on Dec. 8. on YouTube. The debate will commemorate the moments in which the wall played an important role.

“For many Praguers and visitors to Prague, the Lennon Wall in Kampa has become a symbol of freedom and the end of an era. This reminder of his legacy has always reflected contemporary disputes about the past and future of society. And I'm sure it will always be that way,” Jiří Pospíšil, who will introduce the debate said. He is chairman of the board of Museum Kampa – Jan and Meda Mládek Foundation in Prague. The foundation helped organize the debate in cooperation with the Museum of Memory XX Century.

A few days after John Lennon's death on Dec. 8, 1980, his fans created a simple symbolic tombstone for him at Velkopřevorské náměstí. They used the former niche of the municipal water supply system in the wall of the garden of Knights of Malta, near where verses and other writings had appeared in previous years.

More inscriptions related to Lennon and the Beatles soon appeared on the Lennon Wall, as the place began to be called in the early 1980s. Gatherings began to take place there on the anniversary of Lennon's death, and these began to grow into demonstrations against the communist regime starting in 1984.

At the end of the 1980s, some participants in these rallies became the co-founders of two groups opposing the government: the Independent Peace Association – Demilitarization Initiative (NMS) and the John Lennon Peace Club (MKJL).

“The Lennon Wall became a significant phenomenon before 1989, although in 1982 it was covered with a billboard. Since the mid-1980s, petitions have been posted there calling for the introduction of an alternative civilian service, the departure of Soviet troops from Czechoslovakia, the release of political prisoners and the elimination of nuclear weapons,” Blažek said. In addition to being co-author of the new book, he is a board member of the Museum of Memory XX Century.

“After 1989, [the wall’s] appearance also reflected contemporary disputes over the nature of society. This place has also become a major tourist attraction, a commercial item, and even an inspiration for a protest movement on the other side of the globe,” he said, referring to a Lennon Wall that has emerged in Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong Lennon 'sticky-note wall'. (photo: Pasu Au Yeung - Hong Kong Umbrella Revolution)
The Hong Kong Lennon 'sticky-note wall'. (photo: Pasu Au Yeung - Hong Kong Umbrella Revolution)

Prague City Councilor Hana Kordová Marvanová (United Force for Prague), who is also board chairwoman of the Museum of Memory XX Century, said that she considers the publication of the book to be an important contribution to the documentation of the period of the end of totalitarianism.

“It captures a remarkable rebirth, when the place of remembrance for a few fans very quickly became a symbol of resistance to the regime. As one of the founding members of the Independent Peace Association, I have very intense memories of this time, which have not faded to this day, and therefore this book has another, personal dimension for me,” Kordová Marvanová said.

Lennon Wall just after the renovation in 2019. (photo: Raymond Johnston – Expats.cz)
Lennon Wall just after the renovation in 2019. (photo: Raymond Johnston – Expats.cz)

The Lennon Wall underwent renovation at the end of 2019 to reinforce its structure and surface. A mural by professional artists, led by Pavel Šťastný, was painted. New rules were also set as there had been growing concern that too many tourists, especially drunken ones, were painting vulgarities on it and destroying its original purpose as message board for peace and freedom.

The Prague 1 district designated the wall as a significant historical location, and police are closely monitoring it to prevent vandalism.

Would you like us to write about your business? Find out more