Where are Wicklow's Sheela's?

Sheela na gigs are figurative carvings of naked women displaying an exaggerated vulva. They are architectural grotesques found on churches, castles, and other buildings, particularly in Ireland and Great Britain, sometimes together with male figures. 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.

Ireland has the greatest number of surviving sheela na gig carvings; McMahon and Roberts cite 101 examples in Ireland and 45 examples in Britain.

Such carvings are said 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.


Wicklow's Missing Sheela

The two-metre high celtic-style cross stood outside St. Patrick’s Church in Wicklow Town until the late 1950s when the then parish priest Fr. Matthew Blake is believed to have taken a dislike to what he felt were pagan depictions of possibly nude female figures.”

An attempt to re-discover the stone is in progress at the moment and so far a piece of the main shaft has been recovered from under the car park but no sheelas.

Image : Wicklow Times


Jonathan Flood