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"Exhibitionist Figure on Gable-coping or Cornice"

12th century
Length: 27.5cm
Width: 28.5cm
Thickness: 13.5cm
This strange 12th century carving representing a male figure was found in 1966 built into the wall of the present church ruins. It is one of four figurative sculptures which probably belonged to a Romanesque church at Aghalurcher. Below the bearded head, with its big ears and mouth wide-open, seemingly in shock or disapproval, are two testicles in relief above an anus, and there is a trace of a shallow channel below the anus hole. On either side are the male buttocks and thighs, while the legs are shown upturned in acrobatic fashion, with heels touching ears. The figure was intended to be viewed from below and may have been one of the four gable copings of the church or part of a cornice. It symbolises the sins of the flesh and was intended as a warning to the faithful. Later it became customary to use a female exhibitionist figure – called a Sheela-na-gig - for the same purpose, the view being that women rather than men were to blame for all sins relating to Lust. Lust was one of the 'Seven Deadly Sins', the others being: Pride, Envy, Wrath, Sloth, Avarice and Gluttony.
Kindly lent by the Historic Environment Division, DfC
Historic Environment Division, DfC
Tony Corey
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