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Soundless Screams: Graffiti and Drawings in the Prisons of the Holy Office in Palermo

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image of Journal of Early Modern History

The discovery of graffiti in the early years of the twentieth century by the folklorist Giuseppe Pitré left by prisoners of the tribunal of the Spanish Inquisition in Palermo has been followed by more extensive investigations in recent years. These images and words have added a concrete and particular dimension to Sicily’s position at the crossroads of the Mediterranean. As well as images of saints and naval battles are to be found inscriptions not only in Italian, Sicilian and Latin but also in English and Hebrew. This article cross references this visual and textual evidence with the relevant archives of the tribunal in order to provide a powerful microhistory of suffering and resilience in this most inhospitable of environments. The result adds a new dimension to our understanding of the prison’s organization, judicial proceedings and the impact of the inquisition on the lives and consciences of those people from all over Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, who found themselves unwilling denizens of what must have been perhaps the most international community of prisoners in the early modern Christian world.

Affiliations: 1: Dipartimento di Scienze politiche, Università di Palermo


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