Kildare Sheela, Kildare Cathedral, hidden on the underside of the lid of the tomb of Bishop Wellesley (visited May 1994)

I had a difficult time locating this figure, until I asked a young man named Mark who was restoring the church as part of a university internship. He led me to a dark side passage of the church and allowed me to photograph the sheela. She is small, but her poised crouching position and fleshy thighs are most remarkable. Such a strange figure to have on a bishop's tomb?!? Was she put there to protect him in the afterlife, or was she merely put there as a sacrilegious prank by the stonemason? This figure illustrates the different positions in which the sheelas can be displayed--some are consciously hidden away like this figure, others like Moate and Fethard Wall are clearly and prominently displayed.

Mark told me that Bishop Wellesley's tomb was soon to be interred in a part of the Cathedral inaccessible to the public. I have not been back to Kildare town since 1994, so I do not know if this is true.

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copyright 2000 Tara McLoughlin