WRITINGS ON THE WALL
From the scrawls carved by Nazi soldiers on the eaves of Vincennes to the initials chipped by shipwrecked sailors into La Rochelle’s mighty towers, graffiti is part of the very fabric
of France’s monuments. And from April, the Centre des Monuments Nationaux will turn the spotlight on these scribbled mementos, offering an alternative history of the nation’s landmarks and an insight into the lives of the ‘vandals’ who altered them.
The Château de Vincennes will lead the charge, charting its chequered past through the messages scratched by successive residents, from the aristocratic inmates held within its walls (the Marquis de Sade chief among them) to the German troops who commandeered its medieval keep during WWII, and the American GIs who took it back. The Château d’If, off the coast of Marseille (immortalised by Alexandre Dumas in The Count of Monte Cristo), will chronicle its eventful history through its former inmates’ illicit etchings – and even team up with street artists to create fresh installations to bridge past and present.
In La Rochelle, a new exhibit will throw fresh perspective on the Huguenot prisoners and captured sailors whose scribbled notes (all recently unveiled thanks to laser technology) still mark its iconic towers. Later in the year, the Panthéon in Paris will celebrate its criminal heritage by inviting curious visitors behind the scenes for a glimpse of the doodles and codes carved by pilgrims and résistants; while a graffiti trail will lift the veil on Aigues-Mortes’ scored ramparts. And there’s plenty more in store through the summer, with a packed schedule of exhibits and guided tours poised to reveal the CMN’s scribbled secrets.
From April 2018
For a full schedule, visit www.monuments-nationaux.fr