Friday, June 11, 2010

The Church Stretton Sheela Na Gig

St Laurence, Church Stretton, is currently undergoing extensive renovation to make it "more suitable for worship in the 21st century" - something to make any High Church atheist suspicious.

Fortunately, the church's Sheela Na Gig has survived this transformation. As The Sheela Na Gig Project website tells us:
Sheela Na Gigs are quasi-erotic stone carvings of a female figure usually found on Norman or to be more precise Romanesque churches. They consist of an old woman squatting and pulling apart her vulva, a fairly strange thing to find on a church. 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.
The website discusses the Church Stretton figure in detail:

Sheela can be found on the north face of the building over an old Norman doorway. As you can see from the photograph it is quite weathered, the stone has a reddish tinge which is dissimilar from the surrounding stones but is similar to the red sandstone which incorporated from an earlier Norman chapel.

Just below the carving is another small carving of a flower which appears to be of the same stone. This would seem to indicate that this was not it's original position and might have been taken from an earlier structure.

The vagina has been filled in with a small stone this may be an attempt to make the image a little less "crude". An unusual feature of this figure is the fat thighs or knees. You can just make out vestigial ribs on the chest of the figure.

All in all the carving is quite crude which again makes it look at odds with the rest of the church. It is quite high up on the church and appears to be guarding the door below it

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