Photo Credit: Joshua Faudem
Israel Antiquities Authority researcher documenting the pilgrims’ inscriptions on the walls of the Holy Complex on Mount Zion.

According to a written account, Adrian von Bubenberg (1424-1479), a Bernese knight, military commander, the mayor of Bern, Switzerland, and the hero of the Battle of Murten in which the Swiss crushed the French, also took time off from his extraordinarily busy life and came on a 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 graffiti with his name and family emblem on a wall in the King David Tomb Complex on Mount Zion, Jerusalem.

Adrian von Bubenberg’s inscription and family emblem in the Holy Complex on Mount Zion. . Shai Halevy, Israel Antiquities Authority

Their findings were presented on Wednesday at a joint conference of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv University, on “New Archaeological Studies in Jerusalem and the Vicinity.”

The IAA archaeologists who were carrying out their survey on Mount Zion were not expecting to discover a graffiti inscription of the famous Swiss knight Adrian von Bubenberg, who is a national hero of Switzerland.

Jews did not fare well in Middle-Ages Switzerland, especially in Bern, where, in 1294, many local Jews were executed and the survivors expelled under the pretext of the murder of a Christian boy. Another pogrom took place in Zürich in 1249. The Jews were also victims of persecution during the Black Plague, of which the swiss were certain they were  guilty, having poisoned the wells. In 1349, 600 Jews in Basel were burned at the stake and 140 children forcibly converted to Christianity. So, it stands to reason that Adrian von Bubenberg was not a friend.

The IAA’s Jerusalem Region’s King David’s Tomb project documenting graffiti and ancient inscriptions left on the walls by Christian and Moslem pilgrims has revealed more than 40 inscriptions in different languages, as well as the family emblems of medieval knights. The decipherment of the hidden graffiti was done using advanced technological methods that were originally developed by the IAA for researching the Judean Desert scrolls. Using multispectral photography, the different wavelengths that are invisible to the human eye bring out inscriptions that have faded and been erased over the years.

“In the Mamluk period, between 1332–1551 CE, the building complex adjacent to the Tomb of King David was owned by the Monks of the Franciscan order,” said the IAA’s Michael Chernin and Shai Halevi who lead the project. “The building served as a monastery and a hostel for the European pilgrims, who left their mark on the walls.”

Israel Antiquities Authority researchers Shai Halevi and Michael Cherchin documenting the pilgrims’ inscriptions on the walls of the complex. . Joshua Faudem

The researchers were very surprised to discover a charcoal inscription with the name and the heraldic emblem of the family of Adrian von Bubenberg. Following their accoladed victory over one of the strongest armies in Europe, Swiss soldiers gained prestige as fierce fighters, who did not fear their powerful enemies. This helped Switzerland maintain its independence in a volatile Europe.

After his death in 1479, 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, researchers were not able to determine whether it was the father or the son who defaced the wall, but the discovery nevertheless provides direct evidence for the connection between medieval Switzerland and Jerusalem.

IAA Director Eli Escusido said “the research carried out in Jerusalem embraces religions and cultures worldwide. Believers, pilgrims, and visitors seeking to make contact with sacred Jerusalem left traces that the IAA researchers reveal and record daily.”

The full story is presented in the Fifteenth Conference of “New Archaeological Studies in Jerusalem and the Vicinity”, which takes place Thursday at Hebrew University.


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