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Durham University

Department of Archaeology

All Research Projects

Medieval Graffiti in the Prior’s Chapel, Durham Priory

A research project of the Department of Archaeology.


In 1979 a late 15th-century wall painting was uncovered on the north wall of the Deanery at Durham, the hallway of the present Deanery. Sandwiched between the remains of this painting, and earlier 13th-century paintwork, is a mass of intersecting and varied medieval graffiti. On the request of the Dean of Durham Cathedral, a project to record, catalogue and interpret these graffiti was initiated in 2010, with Dr Lynda Rollason (Independent Scholar) and Dr Pam Graves (Department of Archaeology)

The recording of the graffiti has presented considerable technical difficulties, but a full photographic record was finally made in the summer of 2013 by Jeff Veitch and Paul Sams. Initial research into the range of motifs and personal names, in conjunction with documentary and archaeological research into the function and development of the prior’s chapel, has expanded our understanding of the role of the chapel in the prior’s household and monastic community life.

The project continues with next steps including the construction of a GIS-based catalogue of motifs, names, music and text; and experimental remote recording and analysis of the pigments of the wall-painting carried out by Professor Andrew Beeby of the Department of Chemistry, Durham University.

Published Results

Journal Article

  • Graves, CP & Rollason, L (2013). The monastery of Durham and the wider world: medieval graffiti in the prior's chapel. Northern History 50(2): 186-215.
  • Graves, P & Rollason, L (2010). The Medieval Prior's Chapel at Durham: its development and use. Monastic Research Bulletin 16: 24-41.


From the Department of Archaeology

Scottish Soldiers Project

Cooperating with the Palace Museum in China