Graffiti from 15th-century Swiss hero discovered in Jerusalem

Adrian von Bubenberg, who has gone down in history as a hero of medieval Switzerland, went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1466. Israeli researchers have now discovered that graffiti of his name and family emblem at the site of David’s Tomb in Jerusalem. 

The discovery was made by Michael Chernin and Shai Halevi of the Israel Antiquities Authority as part of their work documenting medieval inscriptions in Jerusalem, many of which were left by European pilgrims. It is one of more than 40 inscriptions in different languages that have been revealed by advanced technological methods. These technologies, using multispectral photography, different wave-lengths invisible to the human eye, bring to light inscriptions that have faded and have been erased over the years.


“In the Mamluk period, between 1332–1551, the building complex adjacent to the traditional Tomb of King David, was owned by the Monks of the Franciscan Catholic Order,” says Michael and Shai. “The building served as a monastery and a hostel for the western pilgrims, who left their mark on the walls. Technological methods developed today enable reading the faded inscriptions.”

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

Amongst the inscriptions and graffiti, the researchers were very surprised to discover a charcoal inscription with the name and the heraldic emblem of the family of Adrian von Bubenberg, a Swiss military man and politician from the 15th century, admired to this day as a Swiss National hero.


Von Bubenberg was born to a noble family in 1424, and after a long service as Mayor of Bern, he gained his fame in 1476, when he led the Swiss Confederate army in the Battle of Murten, and defeated the army of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, who threatened the independence of Switzerland. Following this glorious victory over one of the strongest armies in Europe, the Swiss soldiers gained prestige as fierce fighters, who did not fear more powerful enemies. This reputation enabled Switzerland to maintain their independence amongst larger and aggressive neighboring states until modern times.

After his death in 1479, and in gratitude for his protection of Bern and Switzerland, 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, it is not possible to determine whether father or son wrote his name, but the discovery of the Israel Antiquities Authority researchers provides direct evidence for the connection between medieval Switzerland and Jerusalem.

Adrian von Bubenberg on horseback, depicted in a chronicle by Diebold Schilling the Elder – Burgerbibliothek Bern, Switzerland, Mss.h.h.I.3, page 692

“The research carried out in Jerusalem embraces religions and cultures world-wide,” adds Eli Escusido, Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority. “Believers, pilgrims and visitors seeking to make contact with sanctified Jerusalem, left traces that the Israel Antiquities Authority researchers reveal and record on a daily basis. All these remains contribute to the fascinating picture, a taste of which we present in today’s conference.”

Top Image: The inscription and family emblem of Adrian von Bubenberg in the Holy Complex on Mount Zion. Photograph: Shai Halevy, Israel Antiquities Authority