Adrian Was Here! Famed Christian Knight Left Graffiti at King David’s Tomb

An unexpected greeting from an admired Swiss hero: The name of Knight Adrian von Bubenberg was discovered on Mount Zion.

By Israel Today Staff | | Topics: archaeology
Israeli archaeologists document graffiti left on Mount Zion over 500 years ago by Christian and Muslim pilgrims.
Israeli archaeologists document graffiti left on Mount Zion over 500 years ago by Christian and Muslim pilgrims. Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority

Written sources record that Adrian von Bubenberg came on pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1466. More than five centuries later, in the course of a research project documenting pilgrims’ inscriptions, Michael Chernin and Shai Halevi of the Israel Antiquities Authority discovered a graffiti of his name and family emblem on a wall in the “King David Tomb Complex” on Mount Zion, Jerusalem. The research results were presented yesterday in the joint conference of the Israel Antiquities Authority, the Hebrew University and Tel Aviv University, on “New Archaeological Studies in Jerusalem and the Vicinity.”

The Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologists carrying out the archaeological survey on Mount Zion were not expecting to discover a graffiti inscription of Knight Adrian von Bubenberg, one of the admired heroes of Switzerland.

The Israel Antiquities Authority Jerusalem Region have recently been carrying out a unique project in the “King David Tomb Complex” on Mount Zion, focusing on documenting graffiti and ancient inscriptions left on the walls by Christian and Muslim pilgrims. They have revealed more than 40 inscriptions in different languages, as well as the family emblems of medieval knights. The decipherment of the hidden graffiti was made possible by advanced technological methods developed by the Israel Antiquities Authority for the research of the Judean Desert scrolls. These technologies, using multispectral photography, different wave-lengths invisible to the human eye, bring to light inscriptions that have faded and have been erased over the years.

Graffiti left by 15th century Swiss Knight Adrian von Bubenberg on Mount Zion. Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority

“In the Mamluk period, between 1332–1551, the building complex adjacent to the traditional Tomb of King David, was owned by the Monks of the Franciscan Catholic Order” say Chernin and Halevi, who lead the project. “The building served as a monastery and a hostel for the western pilgrims, who left their mark on the walls. Technological methods developed today enable reading the faded inscriptions.”

Amongst the inscriptions and graffiti, the researchers were very surprised to discover a charcoal inscription with the name and the heraldic emblem of the family of Adrian von Bubenberg, a Swiss military man and politician from the 15th century, admired to this day as a Swiss national hero. Von Bubenberg was born to a noble family in 1424, and after a long service as Mayor of Bern, he gained fame in 1476 when he led the Swiss Confederate army in the Battle of Murten, and defeated the army of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, who threatened the independence of Switzerland. Following this glorious victory over one of the strongest armies in Europe, the Swiss soldiers gained prestige as fierce fighters, who did not fear more powerful enemies. This reputation enabled Switzerland to maintain their independence amongst larger and aggressive neighboring states until modern times.

After his death in 1479, and in gratitude for his protection of Bern and Switzerland, von Bubenberg was buried in a place of honor in the Cathedral of Bern. A statue of Adrian von Bubenberg adorns one of the central squares of Bern, and many streets in Swiss cities are named after him. Since his son, Adrian (II) von Bubenberg (1458–1501) also visited Jerusalem, it is not possible to determine whether father or son wrote his name, but the discovery of the Israel Antiquities Authority researchers provides direct evidence for the connection between medieval Switzerland and Jerusalem.

According to Eli Escusido, Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority: “The research carried out in Jerusalem embraces religions and cultures world-wide. Believers, pilgrims and visitors seeking to make contact with sanctified Jerusalem, left traces that the Israel Antiquities Authority researchers reveal and record on a daily basis. All these remains contribute to the fascinating picture, a taste of which we present in today’s conference.”


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