Religious Colonialism: prison graffiti at the Inquisitor’s Palace, Malta

Author(s): Russell Palmer

Year: 2014


The Roman Inquisition was present in Malta for around 250 years and existed as part of a religious colonial regime which also included the Knights of St John and the Bishopric of Malta and Gozo, all of whom officially reported to the Holy See. Responsible for ensuring the proper observance of Catholic ritual and doctrine among Malta’s inhabitants, the Inquisitorial court often issued custodial sentences for any transgression. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the prisons held indigenous Maltese, trading settlers, visiting Protestants, and Islamic slaves, separating inmates by sex only. This paper will explore the inmate graffiti carved into the walls of the Inquisition’s prison cells. More specifically, it will consider the ways in which the graffiti may have been produced and ‘read’ by inmates as images of hope, fear, resistance, and acquiescence in relation to religious imperialism in a largely illiterate society.

Cite this Record

Religious Colonialism: prison graffiti at the Inquisitor’s Palace, Malta. Russell Palmer. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. 2014 ( tDAR id: 436683)

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): SYM-12,08