International Journal of Historical Archaeology

, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 548–561 | Cite as

Religious Colonialism in Early Modern Malta: Inquisitorial Imprisonment and Inmate Graffiti

  • Russell PalmerEmail author


Early modern Malta was governed by three competing Roman Catholic institutions—Order of St. John, Bishopric, and Roman Inquisition—all of which ultimately answered to the Pope. By focusing on the inquisition, the institution most directly controlled by the Vatican, this paper explores the role of imprisonment in furthering the Vatican’s cultural and political control on the island. In doing so, this paper offers an archaeological perspective on an early modern prison context. Through analyses of the prison cells and the inmates’ graffiti, I argue that the inquisition’s ability to imprison was crucial to the Vatican’s colonial position in Malta.


Inquisition Malta Prison archaeology Graffiti Roman Catholicism 



The photographing of the graffiti was conducted with Jeroen De Reu, who is now in the process of creating 3-D imagery. Eleanor Casella, Wim De Clercq, and Michael Given read earlier versions of this essay, each providing detailed feedback, for which I am very grateful. The interpretations offered have benefited from discussions with Emanuel Buttigieg and Suzanne Spencer-Wood, and helpful editorial direction was provided by Laura McAtackney. Lastly, thank you to Heritage Malta and the staff of the Inquisitor’s Palace Museum, especially Kenneth Cassar, who always makes my research stays pleasant and productive. All errors and omissions remain my own.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Archaeology, Historical Archaeology Research GroupGhent University, UFoGhentBelgium

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