Prague, Czech Republic – The Lennon Wall, one of the most popular sights for tourists visiting the Czech capital, is undergoing an extensive reconstruction until next month.
Prague’s Lennon Wall, symbol of peace and Instagram-frenzy
Born out of the 1980’s in then-Czechoslovakia, the Prague Lennon Wall became a symbol of peace and freedom shortly after the assassination of the Beatles singer, a place where people gathered, sometimes risking clashes with police, and posted anonymous, anti-government texts in line with the message and ideals of Lennon.
The Lennon Wall has become a potent symbol of democratic values, to such an extent that Hong Kong protesters, as part of their ongoing protests and clashes against Chinese rule, have also made their own versions of the wall, despite pro-Beijing supporters’ attempts to bring them down.
After the fall of communism, Prague’s Lennon Wall slowly shifted from historical landmark and symbol of peace to popular tourist attraction and most ‘Instagrammable’ spot in Prague. Located in the Mala Strana district, next to the Kampa park and right in front of the French Embassy building, the Lennon Wall was open to anyone wishing to post a message or graffiti that echoed the symbolism of the place and commemorate the late iconic singer and activist.
More often than not, however, the wall only served as the background of a couple of selfies taken on the backdrop of ‘Imagine‘ being played over and over again by local musicians.
Lennon Wall to undergo extensive reconstruction
Things have expectedly gotten out of hand, including due to tour guides encouraging their groups to participate to mass graffiti operations or to pub crawls organizers bringing their inebriated members to the spot.
These abuses, which led to a number of acts of vandalism that was destroying the meaning of the wall, led local authorities to take action. In cooperation with Prague 1 authorities, the Czech Maltese Order, owner of the property where the wall is located, has launched an extensive reconstruction of the wall, now covered with a tarp, scaffolding and “No trespassing” signs.
Talking to Radio Prague, the chancellor of the Grand Priory of Bohemia, Johannes Lobkowicz, explained: “The wall was under enormous pressure during the summer. Vandals are all sorts of organized groups of tourists gathered around it and drew nonsense images and vulgarities and were a nuisance. In general, they destroyed the symbolic value of the place without any respect for it”, adding: “Only tourists of course, not Czechs”.
The Grand Priory of Bohemia, which has to cover the frequent costs of maintaining and repainting the wall, had in the past filed a criminal complaint against the degradation of the wall. The reconstruction, which started this week, should last until the middle of next month, and be completed for the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, on November 17.
The plan, struck in cooperation with Prague 1 municipal authorities, also includes raising awareness about the symbolic value of the site among tourists and installing CCTV cameras in the area, according to the Czech News Agency.
Although a small space might still be open for the general public and visitors to leave their mark, only selected artists and street-artists will most likely be allowed to paint on most of the wall’s surface. “We want to make the space respectful again and give it back its former magical atmosphere connected to its history”, Lobkowicz explained.
The Lennon Wall is not the only historical landmark of the Czech capital facing acts of degradation and vandalism. Earlier this year, two German nationals were arrested after being caught in the act of spray-painting the 14th-century Charles Bridge. Both of them received a hefty fine and were expelled and banned from entering the Czech Republic for five years.