AN UNEXPECTED SHEELA NA GIG AT ST PETERS CHURCH PHIBSBORO
I am using a very high resolution lens and camera and since I started using the new Sigma 105mm lens I have noticed [when processing the images] two ‘Sheela na gigs’. Examine the bottom left of this photograph and you will see one [be aware they are rude]. I suspect that the two that I have seen are new or recent.
Sheela na gigs are figurative carvings of naked women displaying an exaggerated vulva. They are architectural grotesques found all over Europe on churches, castles, and other buildings. The highest concentrations can be found in Ireland, Great Britain, France and Spain, sometimes together with male figures. Ireland has the greatest number of surviving sheela na gig carvings; McMahon and Roberts cite 101 examples in Ireland and 45 examples in Britain. One of the best examples may be found in the Round Tower at Rattoo, in County Kerry, Ireland. There is a replica of the Round Tower sheela na gig in the County Museum in Tralee town. Another well-known example may be seen at Kilpeck in Herefordshire, England.
The carvings may have been used to ward off death and evil. Other grotesques, such as gargoyles and hunky punks, were frequently part of church decorations all over Europe. It is commonly said that their purpose was to keep evil spirits away (see apotropaic magic). They often are positioned over doors or windows, presumably to protect these openings.