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Taghmon Sheela-na-Gig
 

County

Westmeath

Coordinates

N 53° 36' 03.8"   W 007° 15' 59.1"

Nearest town

Mullingar

Grid Ref.

N 48617 61475

Map No.

41

Elevation a.s.l. (m)

96

Date of visit

Thursday 26 May 2011

GPS Accuracy (m)

9
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The north window and the sheela-na-gig above it.


The OS map marks this place as a castle, actually it's a church, a fortified church.
St. Munna founded an early monastery at this place in the 6th century. The present building dates from the 15th century and it was built as an undivided structure, with vaulted ceilings. Two windows are on each side, while the east window is a recent insertion. At the west end is a massive square tower who was built to provide accomodation and security to the priests.
The parapets of the tower and the church are crenellated, a clear clue of the turbulent days at that time.
Above one of the north windows, 4 metres from the ground, is a curious figure. I think it's a sheela-na-gig, though it lacks all the typical features. It's a squat and chunky figure, with a grin on its face and four hollows in the forehead that could be four eyes, or at least they seem eyes. Its chin has something that looks like a beard, and between the legs there's a small hole that could represent a vulva.
Above the doorway of the tower there's a carved head of a bishop, and on the northwest corner of the tower, at the same height as the weird figure, there's another weird head. Though it's worn some features can still be told, like one empty eye socket while the other eye is popping out. The nose is almost missing, the ears are small and worn.
At the roof level of the south wall there's a machicolation, but there's no door on its vertical.

When we came here for the first time on June 15th, 2001, we didn't notice the squat sheela-na-gig, though it's clearly visible in our old 35 mm photos of that time.


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