The Trondheim Sheela na gig

The Tronheim Sheela Na Gig on the Nidarosdomen Norway
Photo copyright Kjartan Hauglid 1996
This figure used to reside on the external corner of the South transept of the Nidarosdomen Cathedral in Trondheim, Norway. It was replaced in 1992 with a modern copy and the original is now on display in the Archbishops Palace Museum attached to the cathedral. The sheela was published by Jørgen Andersen in the artcle  "Konsollernes verden" in Kunst og Kultur Nr. 1 in 1996. This figure is one of three alleged sheela na gigs in Norway, The other carvings are at Stiklestad and Sakshaug although the Sakshaug carving is somewhat suspect as it appears to be more of a pine cone than sheela na gig. This sheela was in all likelyhood carved by an English sculptor as we shall see below.

The History of the Cathedral
King Olaf Haraldsson (also known as Olav) now St Olaf was killed at the battle of Stiklestad in 1030. Tradition has it that the high altar of the cathedral marks the spot where he was buried.  In 1031 the King was declared a saint and pilgrims started to visit his grave. Work started on building the first stone church at the site around 1070. This building was commisioneded by King Olav the Gentle the nephew of St Olav and it is thought that English craftsmen were employed in its construction. Parts of the cathedral are in the Early English style.
For more information on English influence in the area see the page on Stiklestad.

English and French Influence
The cathedral bears some striking similarities to Lincoln cathedral which it strongly resembles. The romanesque corbels on the church also seem to be English in origin as can be seen below. A broken dragon head hood terminal now housed in the Archbishops museum is very similar to those found England. It also thought that English masons and artists had a hand in building most of the 20 or so romanesque churhes in the Trondelag area.

The Trondheim Sheela na gig underside view
Photo copyright Kjartan Hauglid 1996
The Sheela na gig
As you can see from this angle the figure is unequivocally exhibitionist with one finger seemingly insterted into the vulva. However when viewed from the front which is the angle the corbel is most likely to be seen from it would seem that the vulva would be hidden in shadow. Kjartan Hauglid who supplied the pictures for this page assures me that the exhibitionist nature of the carving is visible from the ground. Nevertheless this figure is definitely one of the more modest sheelas unlike the "megavulvic" examples at Kilpeck and Oaksey.
Being "only visible from below" is a feature of some other sheelas, for instance the ones at Stoke Sub Hamdon and on St John's at Devizes can only be seen to be exhibitionist from directly below. This begs the question that if figure is not overtly exhibitionist then why are the sexual features present at all? From the photograph below it seems that even when it was newly carved the height of the sculpture and the butress below it would have prevented its exhibitionist nature from being seen. Non overt or overly highly placed sheela na gigs would seem to be detract from the "warning against lust" theory put forward by Anthony Weir and James Jerman. If the figure cannot be seen to be exhibitionist then how does serve as a method of instruction? Conversely these non overt sheelas may be being used in an apotropaic way to avert evil in somewhat more quiet and non obtrusive manner than their more blatant sisters. The figures at Oxford and Stanton St Quintin were and are high up and barely visible from below.

Thanks go to Kjartan Hauglid for supplying the photographs and much of the information about the sheela.

The modern replacement
Photo copyright Kjartan Hauglid 1996
The modern replacement figure.
The south transept circa early 19th century
Photo by Emanuel Vigeland 19th century
This photo was taken by Emanuel Vigeland sometime during the 19th centry. The position of the sheela is indicated by the arrow. The interesting thing about this photo is that the sheela is directly above a butress. This would mean that it would be nigh impossible to view the carving from directly below. It's exhibitionist nature would not be obvious.

Corbels on the north side
Photo copyright Kjartan Hauglid 2004
Corbels on the north side. These carvings show obvious English influence compare the head with the furrowed brow to a nearly identical head at Kilpeck (below) in Herefordshire in the UK. The animal heads are also similar to those found in the UK







Head at Kilpeck which is almost identical to one at Trondheim
A head with furrowed brow at Kilpeck
Similar head at the Nidarosdomen
A head at the Nidarosdomen in Trondheim.


Heads at Kilpeck and Trondheim. Both heads have  furrowed brows and combed hair. The overall design is nearly identical to the Norwegian figure which has rather more pointed features than the Kilpeck example.Although objviously carved by different sculptors the same motif is being used by both.
Its also worth noting that there are a number of features at Kilpeck that seem to bear Scandiavian influence.


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