"Mother help me correct maths and be with Bojan." Ethnological analysis of wall inscriptions in the church of St. Peter and Paul in Osijek Cover Image

"Majko pomozi mi da ispravim matematiku i da budem s Bojanom". Etnološka analiza zidnih natpisa u crkvi sv. Petra i Pavla u Osijeku
"Mother help me correct maths and be with Bojan." Ethnological analysis of wall inscriptions in the church of St. Peter and Paul in Osijek

Author(s): Jasna Čapo Žmegač
Subject(s): Christian Theology and Religion, History of Church(es), Cultural Anthropology / Ethnology
Published by: Sveučilište u Zagrebu, Filozofski fakultet
Keywords: St. Maria; Osijek; Church of St. Peter and Paul; transcript inscription; wall writing; graffiti;

Summary/Abstract: The author proposes to interpret messages addressed in the past few years to St. Mary, the mother of God, in the chapel of St. Mary of Lourdes in the church of St. Peter and Paul in Osijek, in eastern Croatia. Their specificity resides in the fact that they are written on chapel walls. Taking into account the specific means by which they are written - on a wall - and the specific contents which they exhibit - prayers addressed to St. Mary - the author first discusses the appropriate genre into which they can be ranged. She concludes that wall inscriptions from the Osijek chapel cannot be considered graffiti since they do not exhibit some of their characteristics: their receivers are not anonymous, they are not a result of opposition or of a wish to transgress, or to make up for the communication deficit of some segment of the population, and their content is different. The analysis and interpretation of 1000 wall inscriptions from Osijek is based on their transcription. Throughout the text they are being contrasted with prayers found in Trsat (a North Croatian pilgrimage center) and analyzed by the same author, and, where possible, with prayers from Thierenbach, a pilgrimage center in Alsace, analyzed by Genevieve Herberich-Marx. It is hypothesized that some characteristics of the Osijek inscriptions are linked to the means by which they are written. These are the pronounced anonymity of messages, the age of the population writing them - youth of High school age, and, linked to their age, the motifs of addressing Mary - mainly school problems, problems with partners, meeting somebody, etc. These motifs are in sharp distinction to the motifs presented in Trsat and Thierenbach (health, general help, happiness and protection predominate) where, presumably, people of middle and older age have left messages for St. Mary. The messages in Osijek are very concrete and specific: help is sought immediately and for a definite problem, e.g. to meet one's lover today; not to get a bad mark in the test to be written tomorrow. The author concludes that while to Trsat people come in organized trips and seemingly with no predetermined motives for prayer; to the Osijek church people come deliberately, to pray for a specific motif. The youth in Osijek are turned upon themselves for, in the majority of cases, they pray for themselves and not for other people, as was the case in Trsat. Nevertheless, a special category of prayers is identified in Osijek - prayers for all those who suffer -in villages, towns and Croatian regions struck by the 1991/92 war. Finally, prayers point to Mary's presence in people's lives as helper, savior, giver, protector etc. In quite a number of prayers people address themselves to God, attributing him the same powers as to Mary. St. Mary is not called Mary of Lourdes or of Osijek as is the case in Trsat and in Thierenbach, both important pilgrimage centers in which Mary is thought to be miraculous. This is explained by the ignorance of youth that the statue around which they write messages on chapel walls represents the miracle of Lourdes and by the fact that the statue has not proven miraculous among the inhabitants of Osijek. Regarding the differences and similarities of prayers in Croatia and in a French center, the author concludes that the main difference lies in the way Mary is called and addressed, but that otherwise, prayers from Trsat and Thierenbach have much more similarities than the prayers in two Croatian centers. The reason in all probability lies in the age of visitors and indirectly in the form of the prayer and function of the church.

  • Issue Year: 1993
  • Issue No: 5
  • Page Range: 35-62
  • Page Count: 28
  • Language: Croatian