Tommy Lee was tattooed
in the 1920s by
his wife Millie Hull.
Often billed as "The Living Bible"
because of the 400 religious
designs tattooed on his body.
Tattoo designs showing a person's faith have always been popular. Religious tattoos of both Americans and Europeans can be traced to the early days of the Anglo-Saxon world. The custom of tattooing holy designs on the body was so wide-spread, that in 787 A.D. a council in Northhumberland prohibited the practice. Just as prohibition in the United States did not stop the production and consumption of alcohol, this prohibition did not stop the practice of tattooing among Christians.
Egypt was the first country to adopt Christianity as its national religion and the Coptic Church is one of the oldest national churches in the world. The Copts were often tattooed upon their visit to the Holy Land and for many, the pilgrimage was considered invalid without this visible sign.
Sailors, at the constant mercy of the elements, often feel the need for religious images on their bodies to appease the angry powers that caused storms and drowning far from home.
Both men and women in the sideshow world have extensive religious tattoos. These designs were often thought to be less offensive to the public than the more worldly images. This was a large help in selling their pitch cards, which was a lucrative money making endeavor for many in the carnival world.
Religious designs are as popular as ever today, with the cross, sacred heart, Christ head and Virgin Guadalupe heading the list.
Tattoo Archive © 2000
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