This figure was discovered by Theresa Oakley and was published in her doctoral thesis Lifting the Veil. Apparently the strict rule of the English nuns did not sit well with French group who were used to a more lenient regime. The Sheela na gig is located in a large fragment, originally used as a window sill, and possibly dating from the 12th century. They are usually associated with “hags” or “old women”. This Sheela is surrounded by knotwork patterns, a triskele, a marigold or sun symbol and other Celtic motifs. This would mean that carving has been used to imortalise the abbess’s niggardliness possibly in paying the sculptors. Thanks go to Rosalind Le Quesne who first suggested this figure as Sheela na Gig in the Société Jersiaise Annual Bulletin 2019 (ISSN 0141-1942) and kindly supplied the photograph above and the excellent 3d model of the figure below.. Nevertheless it is displaying it’s vulva (if not in an immediately shocking way) This and the fact that stylistically it appears to much later than the usual Romanesque period, makes it one of the latest vulva displaying figures in the UK. Experts say that during the Victorian era, many of the carvings were destroyed or altered, thanks to the repressive social mores of the time. There are however a number of features that would argue against the satirical nature. Romsey Abbey. The theory that sheela na gigs are warnings against lust was put forward in Images of Lust by Anthony Weir and James Jerman and has been argued against by some people. Speaking about the launch of the Sheela-na-Gig map, Beatrice Kelly, Heritage Council Head of Policy & Research, stated, “Sheela-na-Gigs are very evocative symbols of the feminine in old Irish culture and their prominent positions in medieval churches and castles attests to the importance of the female in Irish society. As can be seen in the illustration from the book on the left the Sheela has been bowdlerised into a clothed figure petting the horse next to it. This object appears to be a damaged pot hence the local name for it. The figure is standing with both feet pointing to the right. I have greatly benefited from his professional generosity This figure is now lost. As was the custom in the 12th century Mary was dedicated to a religious life as a child by her mother Matilida. More are turning up al… A smaller monster head pokes out from its mouth and appears to be indulging in self fellatio with the shaft of the penis clearly entering its mouth. Sheela na gigs can be found all over Britain, Ireland and even France and Spain. This could be down to the legs now being missing or possibly that the figure was being eaten by a monstrous pair of jaws. The church also has a series of satirical bench end carvings depicting clergy as foxes. Sheela Na Gig, Radnorshire Museum, Llandrindod Wells, Wales, UK. to the more important location of Exeter. The birthing corbel is on the adjacent lower corbel table. It is quite thickset with large upper and lower arm and a plump belly. This Shropshire location article is a stub. Interestingly the Sagitarius/Leo motif is duplicated on the font at Hook Norton including the explicit naming of the figures with inscriptions. Could this mean that they are “pagan” survivals secretly hidden among the Christian carvings? The vulva is indicated by a small notch and is not very prominent. This would seem to fit into the alleged satirical nature of the carving as the purse ring is used in Romanesque carving to indicate miserliness. It would seem that relations did not improve despite the move and few years later Stratford priory rescinded any claim to Lillechurch on the condition that Mary’s group packed up their bags and left forthwith. Media in category "Sheela Na Gigs in England" The following 12 files are in this category, out of 12 total. Unfortunately it is hard to from the carving which it is meant to be. Again this is unlikely, though crude the figures are similar to other romanesque carvings which are always found in a Christian context. See Melbourne Church’s Miser Figure for an example of a purse ring. The Jersey and Ballindon Sheela Na Gigs two new figures Posted on January 5, 2020 Starting off 2020 with a bang we have two new pages on “new” finds from Jersey in the Channel Islands and Ballidon in Derbyshire. Sheela Na Gig is generally believed to be a pre-Christian deity or fertility symbol. However Richard N Bailey examined this figure close up on scaffolding and dismissed this interpretation in his paper Apotropaic Figures in Milan and North-West England (point 12). The carving of the sheela is fairly crude especially when compared to some of the care taken on the other figures. The vast majority of the ones that have survived are in Ireland. The head has no visible facial features the face itself being a scooped out hollow. The quality of the sculpture is quite crude again not uncommon with Sheelas. One of the odder features of this sculpture is that vulva resides in a depression. A Thomas Ellery is recorded in Harrod & Co.’s Directory of Hampshire & Isle of Wight, 1865 “Thomas ELLERY, stone and marble mason, Middle Bridge street, Romsey”. The figure was known locally by schoolchildren1 in the past as “The nun on the potty” this is probably due to the fact that there appears to be something between the figures splayed legs. This has been interpreted as foliage but as you can see from the photo on the left this “foliage” still retains some of the medieval red/orange paint. Everyone remembers their first sighting of a Sheela Na Gig. This sheela figure is situated between a horse and a sword as can be seen in the above picture (Fig 1). It is very likely that the sheela comes from an earlier 12th century chapel that stood on the site. Even though the image is overtly sexual the representation is always grotesque, sometimes even comical. The church is thought to have been originally built in 1100 the first version of the church not having a tower. ).The figure is splay legged with “something” appearing to emanate from the groin. Traces the origins of the Sheela na gig from Medieval times to Paleolithic cave art • Reveals the sacred display of the vulva to be a universal archetype and the most enduring image of creativity throughout the world • Provides meditations on the Sheelas the author encountered in Ireland, England, Scotland, and Wales, allowing readers to commune with the power of these icons … Here however we have a example which unequivocally places both exhibitionism and … They can be found in the UK, France, Spain,Portugal, Switzerland, Norway, Belgium, Denmark and in the former Czech republic. Directions. The exterior of the church includes a carving which may be a Sheela na gig. See the weathering on the Church Stretton Sheela as compared to the surrounding masonry. At the time of writing his website now appears to be offline. New The Pennington Sheela Na Gig; New Article on Sheelas at Hyperallergic.com; New Article on Vice.com; Female Torso figures from the Rhondda Valleys; New Figure Found in Ashbourne, Derbyshire. There is no more famous a Gaelic symbol thand the shamrock. Acrobat figure 4th left. Nevertheless it is an interesting and unique figure. There are in the region of 75 of them with about 30 others spread through England, Wales and Scotland. If this description holds true then the vulva would have been facing the church and would not have been immediately obvious. It’s assumed that the figure was left to his cousins or more remote family. This is by necessity a work in progress so please check back to see if any “new” sheelas have been added. If anyone knows the whereabouts of the figure or can put me touch with Mr. Jude’s family please let me know. Sheela na gigs can be found all over Britain, Ireland and even France and Spain. While Ireland has by far and away the most Sheela na gig figures, female exhibitionist figures are very much an international phenomenon. The Sheela Na Gig Project on the BBC News website; New Sheela Na Gig Figure found in Ireland. However the pagan interpretation of sheelas is by far the most popular and generates most of the debate on the figures. Thanks go to Mr George Wingfield for informing the project of this figure. This would make this a later example of sheela if this date is correct. The figure is one of the more puzzling figures I’ve come across and I’m not aware of any other figure quite like it. The carvings are old and often do not seem to be part of the church but have been taken from a previous older, usually romanesque, building. Sheela Na Gigs are quasi-erotic stone carvings of a female figure usually found on Norman or to be more precise Romanesque churches. New Figure Found in Ashbourne, Derbyshire. This later figure (right) can be found on the rear of the church high up on the back wall. To all intents and purposes invisible from the ground. This figure is situated on the Norman Abbey in Romsey. Binstead sheela na gig The 11th [1] and 13th century church [2] is located between the village and the coast. This is one more example of Victorian self-censorship in the describing of exhibitionist figures which can also be seen in tracts on the Llanhamlach figure and the typanum at Stoke Sub Hamdon. There is also some indication that the vulva may have been carved at a later date than the main figure as it appears to be out of line with the main body. The figure appears to have been moved from elsewhere and looks like the type of gargoyle figure you see adorning later medieval church towers. Nevertheless we have a sexual sculpture of what appears to be an abbess and a sexual scandal involving an abbess both of which come from the same period. It is to this Romanesque phase of building that unusual two towers of Exeter and the sheela na gig figures belong. Unlike most church sculpture we have a likely sculptor for this corbel as he has kindly left his signature on the side of the figure. As you can see from the above photograph the legs are indicated either side of the vulva making it distinctly un-skirt like. The figure definitely represents a ecclesiastical figure due to the prescence of the crozier. (see below left). Monkton has religious connections going back to 928AD and was owned by the monks of Glastonbury Abbey. There is also a hard to identify object in the figure’s left hand which has been identified as shears. The picture below indicates the exact position. Some years later Queen Matilda founded a new priory at Lillechurch in Kent and at the tender age of sixteen Mary found herself the prioress of the St Sulpice nuns.The rents from Lillechurch manor were made over to Stratford priory to cover the costs of the new sister house. The name Ellery is fairly easy to make out with a possible date of 1865 below. The church has been added to many time over the centuries resulting in a many different features from different times. The prevalence of sheelas in Ireland (far more so than anywhere else) suggests that even if the image originates on the continent the image  has meaning for the Irish. If this is the case then the figure would have faced head outwards with the feet on the tower while a channel would have been set to make waste water emerge from the mouth. [4] [5] It is unusual in having one arm aloft and the other resting on a knee. The imagery in the cave tends to support this theory with some of the carvings being interpreted as events in Templar history. The carvings are particularly evocative. by Copyright Rosalind Le Quesne No-one can definitively explain the exact purpose of the stone carvings. Whereas it’s very hard to determine what the unidentified object is, my personal theory is that it’s a purse ring . It is hard to ascribe any meaning to these carvings other than decoration like the rest of the corbels on the cathedral. Lives of the Princesses of England M.A. A crone goddess, Sheela Na Gig is depicted as a woman showing her genitals and is most likely to appear upon gateways, windows, and doorposts. While I was visiting the figure one of the locals very kindly let me into his garden to have a look at the side of the building and photograph the odd blocked up floor level windows. What of  the apotropaic theory as protection against evil? Church of St Mary and St David: English Romanesque - See 95 traveler reviews, 99 candid photos, and great deals for Kilpeck, UK, at Tripadvisor. The cave originally had a platform built into it which made the old floor much higher than the modern one. It’s open to debate whether the figure should be taken in context with these carvings as Joseph Beldam did in his book The Origins and Use of the Royston Cave 1884 (see below). Close-up of the head showing the “horns” and scooped out face. In this location she’s known as the Hag of the Castle, a name I love. All of the figures are crudely carved and now very worn, but even taking into account their current state even when new the figures would have been crude. The best place to view the figures is by standing at the back of the large green outside the cathedral to the right of north tower. The now lost St Ives Sheela Na Gig Photographs by permission of Anthony Weir. This scene is then, somewhat bizzarely, described as the conversion of St Paul. Apparently not as a later letter to the King of France makers clear her hatred of King Henry and it would appear she did not welcome the marriage at all. In this drawing the arms are correctly positioned but the figure has acquired a head of hair similar to other figures in the cave and the carved vulva now becomes part of a skirt or shift. At the end of the day this carving is simply to worn to make an accurate judgement. Well it has all the characteristics of a sheela except for the fact that it’s exhibitionist nature is not immediately obvious. All articles and photographs are copyright John Harding unless otherwise stated. The chapel is the only building to have survived into the present day. It resides on the now disused Chapel of the Augustinian Friary on Conduit Hil, Ry and is in a somewhat dilapidated state. It lacks the defined genitals which would definitely make this figure a sheela. Abstract corbels, an astrological tympanum, St Michael slaying the dragon and host of other architectural features make Stoke Sub Hamdon a veritable feast of medieval carving. The Sheela Na Gig Project is an attempt to collate information about Sheela Na Gigs in the UK. In fact you have to go out of your way to discover that the figure is indeed exhibitionist at all. The Sheela na Gig I visited on my recent trip to Ireland was at Ballinderry Castle in County Galway. You will find many figures here that appear in books on the subject and some that do not. Walk past the tower and you should find a series of Romanesque corbels. King Henry II sees an opportunity to strengthen his alliances on the continent by marrying Mary, despite the fact she is an abbess with accompanying vows of chastity, to Matthew of Alsace the younger son of the count of Flanders. The hands point at the groin to a crudely incised vulva which does not go all the down to the crotch. There is even a rare Sheela-na-gig. Tympanum over the main door to the church containing the astrological symbols of Saggitarius and Leo. There could however be another explanation for the figure which involves a royal scandal and an abbess who became a wife. The site also includes figures which are reported as being Sheela Na Gigs but in fact are other types of Romanesque motifs. Interestingly one of these holes is directly between the legs of the sheela (Fig 2) this would have meant that the figure and more to the point the vaginal area would have been directly lit further emphasizing the shock that the figure would have been likely to induce. The arrow indicates the position of the sheela na gig carving. The museum is not currently displaying the figures but is well worth a visit anyway, Fibreglass cast images used with permission Thomas Cadbury of Exeter Museum. In the book the Sheela na gig changes sex and is associated with the horse and sword next to it. While the most common interpretation of a sheela na gig is “a pagan idol” there is little evidence for a pagan connection. This figure lacks the overt exhibitionism of the Kilpeck and Oaksey figures in much the same way as the earlier Romanesque corbel on the other side of the church. Angel figures from this period when they become worn start to become suggestive of exhibitionist figures. In December 2006 I revisted Melbourne and took some more detailed pictures of the “miser” figure and found that the object that the figure was holding actually included what seems to be the sack of the purse as well. Starting off 2020 with a bang we have two new pages on “new” finds from Jersey in the Channel Islands and Ballidon in Derbyshire. This is curious as other figures while still not of the highest quality are better carved than the exhibitionists. If you continue to use this site we will assume that you are happy with it. Welsh researcher John Harding lists the locations of non-Irish sculptures on his website, The Sheela Na Gig Project (sheelanaGig.org). The other objects though are more troublesome, a pot which the figure squats over and looped object held in the left hand which may be a purse representing money. St Andrew's was used as a filming location to depict the local parish church in all three series of the … The figures can be found on the north side of the south tower. This figure resides in the church of St Savior’s in Jersey. The Jersey and Ballindon Sheela Na Gigs two new figures, http://www.rammuseum.org.uk/collections/local-history, The Sheela Na Gig Project on the BBC News website. Please note that this shows the Location of St Ives. One Sheela-na-Gig in England looks a little like E.T., minus the whole flashing-the-vulva thing—a pose common to all Sheela-na-Gigs. The choice of Romsey was not unusual as it had a tradition of housing those of royal blood who took to the cloisters. Please let us know if you agree to all of these cookies. The figure is very worn and as such it is hard to tell what it was originally meant to represent. However when you go directly beneath the figure you can clearly see a cleft indicating either buttocks or a vagina. The fact that the corbels are only around foot wide combined with the angle and distance at which they are viewed really does mean that you will need binoculars or a long lens on your camera. Headgear is not unknown on Sheela Na Gigs and this adds another figure to list. His listing focuses on Scotland, Wales and England … Romsey Abbey is widely regarded as one of the best examples of Norman church architecture still standing. Location of the Exeter Figures. It has had a varied life serving as a store house in the 1700s. Henry was of a different family to Mary and so her fortunes dwindled somewhat. Unfortunately according to the museum Mr. Jude had since died and had no immediate family. Permission was granted to the friars to rebuild their friary after a French raid destroyed the original buildings along with most of the town. The rest of the church is very interesting with many different carvings dotted around it. In 1801 the population rose to 165 and then rose again to 197 ten years later. Thanks go to Carl Grigg for the photographs. One odd fact is that the carving was originally in position where it could not be seen easily. This is by necessity a work in progress so please check back to see if any “new” sheelas have been added. The face is basic and the head is surmounted by what appears to be a headress or hat This is trapezoidal in shape and fits closely to the head. All but one of the chroniclers of the period paint Mary as the innocent party in this scandal. The figures consist of a definite female figure, a definite male figure and a slightly ambiguous figure which on the balance of probabilities is likely to be female. The figure is most likely contemporary with this phase of building. Again this seems unlikely as an explanation as the location does not readlily fit in with the theory. http://www.sheelanagig.org/wordpress/jersey, http://www.sheelanagig.org/wordpress/ballidon. We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. Kilpeck Church is a fine Norman church, dating from when this part of the world was still part of Wales. This website aims to address the balance by listing all known figures in the UK complete with photographs and include information on figures from the continent. You will find many figures here that appear in books on the subject and some that do not. At first glance the figure is unremarkable just a face staring out from a squatting body. The information on this site has mostly come from first hand visits to the figures except where indicated. Researching Sheela Na Gig Sculptures in the UK, “this agreeable subterranean recess, hewn out of. Sheela-na-gigs in Ireland and England arranged by counties 163 Notes 169 Bibliography 195 Index 213 Plates face page 120 v. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Many people have contributed to this book, and I am deeply indebted to them all, but particular recognition must go to Conleth Manning. More information on Royston Cave can be found at www.roystoncave.com and on Wikipedia which replicates a number of plates from Beldam’s book. The carvings are normally found on Churches usually of Norman origin and of Romanesque design, but they can also be found on Secular buildings (e.g. From a sheer numbers standpoint, it is Ireland that the claims the most sheela na gig carvings, and the England-Wales border is the home of the best known carving, the sheela of Kilpeck Church. In 1050 Edward the Confessor, unhappy with the relatively obscure location of the See of Devon and Cornwall moved it from Crediton in Devon We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. Thomas a Beckett’s horror at the scarelige of this marriage is written about by a number of writers of the period. Sheela Na Gig, Church of St Mary and St David, Kilpeck, England, UK. They are extremely hard to see with the naked eye and can only be found with some sort of maginification. Its location some distance from the modern centre of Binstead probably indicates a medieval village associated with the quarries in the church's vicinity. It is at this point that scandal rocks 12th century Europe. The Sheela-Na-Gig is found in Celtic and medieval stonework, often positioned over entrances and doorways, carved into cathedrals and stone churches all over Ireland, Wales, England, and throughout Europe. The figure has the Herculean shoulders and the exaggerated hanging pudenda which marks it as sheela but, as Anderson points out, the figure does not gesture to the genitals the hands hanging loosely at its sides. Sheela na gig or Mary of Blois? The Jersey Sheela-na-gig This sheela-na-gig appears on a corbel on the southwest exterior nave wall of the parish church of Saints Mary and David in Kilpeck, England, near the Welsh border. Whatever the reason the group left Kent and were sent to Romsey some time between 1156 and 1158 where Mary was appointed new Abbess. The in situ photos below were taken with a 1000mm lens. The Sheela Na Gig Project is an attempt to collate information about Sheela Na Gigs in the UK. Pages Related to Sheela na Gigs. After the Norman conquest the second Norman bishop Warelwast, a nephew of William the Conqueror started construction of a new cathedral between 1112-1114. The site also includes figures which are reported as being Sheela Na Gigs but in fact are other types of Romanesque motifs. kilpeckchurch.org.uk. While the figure is undoubtedly exhibitionist is it a sheela? The information on this site has mostly come from first hand visits to the figures except where indicated. It would have taken a significant amount of time to carve taking a sculptor away from other more visible and authorised work. One of the more likely theories to explain exhibitionist figures is that they served a didactic purpose warning against sins of the flesh. This figure and a later nude figure on the church is discussed in the paper Two Sheila-na-gigs at Stoke Sub Hamdon by Paul Ashdown in Somerset Archaeology and Natural History 1993. If you continue to use this site we will assume that you are happy with it. The Jersey and Ballindon Sheela Na Gigs two new figures, The Sheela Na Gig Project on the BBC News website. The figure holds a crooked staff which has been interpreted as a crozier. The Anglican parish of Clevedon is part of the Portishead deanery. We have been gathering information on figures since 1999 using visits, printed sources, information supplied by visitors to the site and users of the sheela na gig mailing list. The part of the figure showing genitalia is less well defined than the upper body, possibly as a result of weathering or an attempt to obscure that part of the image at some time in the past. At that time the figure was in the private possession of Mr R.C. If you compare the Romsey figure to the Melbourne one they both seem to be holding what appear to be very similar objects. Given that Mary’s ecclesiastical career was a matter of circumstance rather than conviction would she have welcomed the marriage? Kilpeck Sheelagh na Gig.jpg 528 × 528; 153 KB. The figure depicts a monster in an “acrobatic” pose with its feet held to its ears. You have to look at the corbels on the face of the far tower over the roof the cathedral. And then – that looks like, oh, yes, it is – a naked woman, exposing her genitals to your gaze. This begs the question could this be a genuine example of a “mason’s joke”. I contacted the Norris museum near St.Ives with a view to finding out what had happened to the figure and whether the museum now had possession. Explaining the role of the Sheela na gig in restoring the Divine Feminine, the author shows the Sheela to be an icon that makes visible the cycles of birth, death, and renewal all humans experience and a necessary antidote to centuries of suppression of the primal power of women, of nature, and of the imagination. In fact Images of Lust proposes a Continental origin for them. Although some depictions are a little confrontational at first glance, Sheelas, as the carvings are affectionately referred to, are commonplace on sacred buildings throughout Ireland and England. It’s thought that this corbel is a replacement for an original romanesque corbel of a similar design. If this is an exhibitionist figure then it would be exceptional given the likely date of carving. Stukeley attributed a Norman origin to the cave writing shortly after it’s discovery. Priest's door at Buckland, with Sheela Na Gig carving - geograph.org.uk - 1201470.jpg 2,415 × 3,219; 1.52 MB. One of the ribs of the font has a definite bulge on it which looks to be deliberate and is missing from the rest of the ribs. In 1676 the parish had 103 adult inhabitants. And they brought over with them this tradition of Sheelah and Sheelah’s Day. Let us know you agree to cookies We use cookies to give you the best online experience. Sheela Na Gig, medieval stone carving of a “female exhibitionist,” on the north wall of the parish church of Oaksey, Wiltshire, England. Mary began a quiet life at Romsey until 1159 when Mary’s brother William died leaving her the sole heiress of her families estates including Boulogne in France. While the most common interpretation of a sheela na gig is “a pagan idol” there is little evidence for a pagan connection. the current church is the third to stand on the site but has been a place of worship for at least 1000 years going back to Saxon times. Unfortunately this strife was taste of what was to come for the young princess. Female figure second left. All articles and photographs are copyright John Harding unless otherwise stated. There is a sense that the women were more involved in the celebrations on the 18th.” Brent Knoll church in Somerset dates back to 11th century but the tower on which this carving resides dates from the 14th. on Sketchfab. St Saviours dates from 11th century with a church recorded here in 1087. For the most part Mary was seen as the innocent party so is it likely that she would be villified in a satirical piece of sculpture? On the south wall of the nave is a 12 inches (30 cm) Sheela na Gig. New Sheela Na Gig Figure found in Ireland. As with most speculation on these figures the fact is we will never really know. Irish people headed over to Newfoundland from the late 1600s. Antiquarian William Stukeley made an earlier drawing of the figure which has also been bowdlerised. What are Sheela Na Gigs? Royston lies on the intersection of the ancient thoroughfares of the Icknield Way and Ermine St. Interestingly another Sheela can also be found near the Icknield way further south at Buckland. The arms of the figure are very odd, as you face the figure the arm on the left terminates in what appears to be a bird head while the right arm dissolves into a  curl below the elbow (foliage perhaps? The font in the church is thought to date from the 12th century which would put it in the right period for sheela carvings. Given that they they are nigh invisible from the ground a didactic purpose seems unlikely. Local historians insist that there is a Templar connection  and that it was used for initiation purposes into that order. Nog een filmpje van ons eerste optreden.. https://youtu.be/rYta70ixA3s The same goes for the later figure on the rear of the church (see below) mentioned in Paul Ashdown’s paper. There is a figure on the font in the church which has been referred to as sheela by the folklorist Ivan Bunn in his list of UK sheelas. Definitely an unusual figure which predates the Alien movies by centuries but has a distinct similarity to the Xenopmorph’s projecting jaws. It features two sheela na gig statues. A number of saints are depcited including St Catherine, St Lawrence and St Christopher. The figure is missing the right hand limbs but gestures to the vulva with it’s left hand. Corbel table Exeter Cathedral. Jude of St Ives. The bucolic location is another plus. Despite being in plain view the figures are to all intents and purposes hidden. A comprehensive catalogue of all the Shella na Gigs in Ireland with maps, photos and detailed descriptions. 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