John Lennon Wall
The John Lennon wall in Prague is a long wall covered in vibrant graffiti. The wall is property of the Knights of the Maltese Cross. Scrawls and paintings to pay tribute to John Lennon were completely legal until 2019. When tourists started to write inappropriate messages, only professional artists could contribute.
When in the 1980, right after Lennon’s death, the first tributes started to appear, the wall was promptly whitewashed after every new attempt of graffiti spraying. Even security guards could not stop the graffiti protests and tributes.
After the fall of Communism, the John Lennon Wall gradually changed from a historical monument and symbol of peace to a popular tourist attraction and the best loved selfie and Instagram spot in Prague.
John Lennon Wall
Wandering through the narrow street of Kampa Island in the Mala Strana district in Prague, you will soon come across this iconic wall. Every time you come to have a look at the wall, the scrawls, pictures and poems are different. Students of the Arts Academy once painted the wall completely red and another time they gave it a white make-over and in black letters: ‘Wall Is Over’, a clear reference to Yoko Ono’s peace message: ‘War Is Over’. Since then the wall has again been covered with colourful graffiti messages.
The Beatles had many fans in former Czechoslovakia but no one could show their admiration openly for fear of being imprisoned. Therefore, when graffiti paintings and texts openly showing admiration for the Beatles began to appear on the wall in the Communist Era this was a risky enterprise. But the fans persisted, every night the secret police whitewashed the wall, every day the Lennon fans painted new pictures and wrote new messages.
Graffiti spraying without permission is no longer allowed
Since the summer of 2019, nobody is allowed to contribute to the John Lennon wall without permission. The wall as a symbol of peace had faded into the background as tourists often scribbled vulgar and inappropriate graffiti. Instead, professional artists will now be asked to create murals. The wall will still carry its legacy but in an artistic spirit.
In March 2019, international artists were given permission to spray a painting celebrating 30 years of freedom. It portrayed Václav Havel and John Lennon and had slogans about peace and freedom in different languages. Three weeks later, environmental activists repainted the entire wall with ecological slogans. This in turn did not last long. On 1 May, a national holiday for both love and labour, an artist sprayed a large portrait of John Lennon, but this did not last long either.
In 2014 something similar had happened. A group of students sprayed the wall completely white and added one slogan: Wall Is Over, a word play on Lennon’s War Is Over. The public then quickly repainted the wall with images of Lennon and lyrics of Beatles.
Now, there is a complete ban on unauthorized spraying of graffiti as is busking and begging for money. Spontaneous music making by Lennon admirers is allowed as long as it enhances the atmosphere and contributes to the purpose of the wall: spreading peace.
New Rules and Regulations
- Spraying, posters and other forms of damage are prohibited
- Private messages (by pen or chalk only) can be drawn in designated zones
Timeline of the John Lennon Wall
In 1980, after the death of John Lennon, the wall of the Knights of the Order of Malta complex turned into a spontaneous work of art on which political slogans appeared.
1988 marked the end of the Prague Spring. The communist regime reversed the democratization that began in 1968. Young Czechs expressed their displeasure the loss of freedom and showed this by slogans on the wall.
On 17 November 2014, exactly twenty-five years after the Velvet Revolution, the wall was painted white and three words appeared: Wall is Over. Initially, the Maltese Order reported vandalism, but later withdrew it. The slogan remained on the wall, but in a modified form: War is Over, after the John Lennon and Yoko’s song Happy Xmas (war is Over).
In March 2019, portraits of Vaclav Havel and John Lennon appeared on the wall in memory of thirty years of freedom.
On 22 April 2019 (Earth Day), the wall was completely repainted. This time by the action group Extinction Rebellion who added the slogan: Klimaticka nouze, climate in need. Passers-by and tourists were asked to write their climate messages on the wall.
In July 2019, a yellow raincoat appeared on the wall. A coat worn by the Marco Leung Ling-Kit when he protested against the extradition law between China and Hong Kong. After his death, he became the symbol of the demonstrations in Hong Kong
From summer 2019, only professional artists are allowed to add paintings and slogans to the wall.
Museum Lennon Wall Story
The Lennon Wall Story tells the story of the John Lennon Wall in Prague from when it started in 1980. In addition to information panels, the visitor is also presented with a thirty-minute documentary about the history of John Lennon Wall in Prague: eyewitness stories, historical photos and other material showing and reflecting on the events of those days. There is also a replica of the John Lennon Wall on which visitors can leave a message, a popular activity among tourists that was banned in 2019.
Museum: Lennon Wall Story, Prokopska 8, Mala Strana, Prague
Open: Friday 15.00-20.00, Saturday and Sunday 11.00-20.00
Address and getting there
The John Lennon Wall is situated on a quiet square in de Mala Strana district and close to Kampa an island in the Vltava south of Charles Bridge.
Address: Velkoprevorske Namesti
Tram 15, 20, 22 Hellichova stop