Holycross Abbey Sheela-na-Gig




N 52° 38' 21.0"   W 007° 52' 06.6"

Nearest town


Grid Ref.

S 08953 54184

Map No.


Elevation a.s.l. (m)


Date of visit

Friday 14 September 2012

GPS Accuracy (m)

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The part of the abbey where the sheela-na-gig is. The figure is at 2.51 metres from the ground.

Holycross Abbey was a Benedectine monastery founded in 1169. It was later granted to the Cistercian Order in 1180. The name of the abbey comes from the relic of the Jesus's Cross that Isabella of Angoulême, the widow of King John, donated to the monastery in 1233. Because of this relic, the abbey became a renowned place for pilgrimage during the Medieval times.
The abbey fell in ruins after the raids of Oliver Cromwell in 1650, and by 1740 it became a burial place for the communities of the area. In 1880 it was listed as a national monument and in 1969 it was restored as a Catholic church.
Internally many details are from the time when the church was still working as a place of worship.
But the reason why I created a page for this church is because of the sheela-na-gig on the outer walls of the monastery.
The sheela-na-gig is at 2.51 metres from the ground, facing south-southwest (200°) on the wall of the building indicated as the cellar on the plan of the abbey. Its measures are 57 centimetres of height and 44 centimetres of width. It's very hard to make the it out because the carved figure is almost totally missing. It's been clearly chipped away in an attempt to cancel the image from the wall. The only detail visible is the smooth head, with no eyes or nose or ears. The top of the head is flat and corresponds to the edge of the slab on which it was carved. A torso with two arms and two legs spread apart are still distinguishable, but every possible detail is missing. The defacing must be relatively recent because the marks of the chipping are still sharp.

It seems that we came here already, on June 5th, 2001, but on that occasion we only visited the abbey. Again I can't remember of that. It's the fourth time in the same year that I can't remember a place that I visited before! I am definitely old!

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