Most obvious features of churches are left by the rich and famous – tombs, brasses and stained-glass windows, the very buildings themselves.
Graffiti are common man’s contribution – from the villagers who worked the land and lived in the parish.
Now they are hard to see with the naked eye. However in medieval times the lower walls were painted, red, ochre or black and the scratched graffiti would have been far more visible.
A survey was undertaken by the Norfolk Medieval Graffiti Survey in 2010-12 by a volunteer led community archaeology project. Of the 10% of Norfolk’s medieval churches, 80% had significant graffiti.
Swannington was discovered to have ‘inscriptions far above the average’, vast amounts of early graffiti and much medieval Latin text. Everything from heraldic inscriptions to very lovely medieval text was discovered.
The survey showed that Swannington has a rich horde of graffiti, surpassing some examples found in Norwich cathedral. The surveying team catalogued and photographed examples.
The Swannington graffiti includes: the figure of a nun in the chancel; an erudite Latin phrase on a column in the nave; masons' marks; and devotional motifs inscribed to ward off the evil eye. Use of an LED torch highlights the inscriptions.