While John Lennon as a man may not have lived up to the legend of what John Lennon became, his legacy of peace and love does and will live on for ages to come. In honor of the gospel teachings of John Lennon, an otherwise ordinary wall in Prague, Czech Republic has since the 1980s been turned into a living and constantly changing monument filled with John Lennon-inspired graffiti, lyrics from Beatles’ songs, and flowers.
The Lennon Wall has not always been universally loved by all the citizens of Prague and in 1988 was of particular irritation to the communist regime of Gustáv Husák. This irritation was partially due to the Czech youth writing social grievances on the wall. This youth movement and their frustration with the government led to clashes between hundreds of students and police on the famous Charles Bridge. The students were self described as following “Lennonism”, and the authorities took an opportunity to describe them as agents of Western capitalism and mentally deranged.
Nevertheless, the wall had stood the test of time and continuously changes. Though the Lennon Wall is sometimes painted over with white or grey paint, it is once again filled with graffiti, poems, and flowers within a few days. The Lennon Wall originally featured a giant portrait John Lennon, but the image has been painted over with hundreds of layers. Today, the wall represents more than youth frustration and stands as a symbol of global ideals such as love and peace.
On 17 November 2014, the wall was painted over in pure white by a group of art students. Their intention was to honor the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, and they only left text saying “wall is over”. The Knights of Malta filed a criminal complaint for vandalism against the students, but retracted it after contacting the student artists
Lennon Wall Facts
- The Lennon Wall is owned by the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. They allow the graffiti but could probably stop it if they really wanted.
- The tribute to John Lennon is located in the Grand Priory Square (Velkopřevorské náměstí).
- In 2014, a similar (though not as permanent) wall appeared on the side of the Hong Kong Cantral Government Offices. The wall was made of post-it notes with democratic wishes for the future written on them.
- The Lennon Wall is one of the most popular sites in a city filled with popular sites and is included on many walking tours.
- The Lennon Wall is the only place in all of Prague that graffiti is legal.
- Post 1948 the wall of the compound of the Knights of Malta was used mainly for people protesting the communist takeover.
- In the 1960’s it was known as the “Crying Wall” and was associated with protest against the government. It was regularly painted over at this time.
- In 1990 the Knights of Malta gave their formal permission for the graffiti to continue.
- On August 14th 2002, the largest flood in more than 100 years caused part of the façade, of the wall to collapse.