Most of these figures
are on corbels, which often served as exempla or pedagogical
encouragement towards Christian Behaviour. The theologian Jacques
de Vitry at the end of the 12th century urged ecclesiastics
to direct their talents towards the edification of the unlettered,
the instruction of the ignorant and "superstitious"
peasants, before whom real-life subjects and scenes should be
presented more often, since common people are moved more by
images than by sermons - as television has confirmed if it were
Some collegiate churches
attached to important monasteries featured hundreds of figures
illustrating and warning against all sorts of sin from gluttony
and drunkenness, dancing and lewd behaviour to calumny, simony
and sodomy - and most particularly wealth
and the sins of luxury to which wealth inevitably leads.
Male exhibitionist with moneybag,
Domfront (Orne) France
Male exhibitionist with barrel-like
and musicians are frequent, for to Christian - as to some Muslim
- clerics of the time, all secular music was (like the blues
in twentieth-century United States) 'the devil's tunes',
and the ubiquitous bagpipe
was an obvious - if later - metaphor for male genitals, as,
to a lesser extent was the flute.
At Givrezac (above) a megaphallic male blows on a dolio,
which might have sounded something like a jug played in an Alabama
jazz-band of the 1920s.
James', Louth (Lincolnshire) a male exhibitionist plays a fife
photo by Chris Marshall
Harp- and Rote-players are not uncommon.
and rub shoulders with beasts such as pigs and dogs and bears
who, even when not ithyphallic, represent lusts and degradation.
Ithyphallic bear on the church
tower at Aston Somerville (Gloucestershire)
were as important as Wolf-cults in Classical and pagan pre-Romanesque
times. Just as the Roman Republic claimed its origin in the
suckling of two abandoned twins by a she-wolf, so princes, leaders
& heroes used to claim that their genealogy began with union
of a bear with a female ancestor. Since, of course, the cult
was seen as a threat to the church, it wanted bears to be domesticated,
dominated and humiliated. This accounts for the hundreds of
years of appalling cruelty to bears in Europe - as to wolves
- which still has not ceased, (and in China amounts now to a
pseudo-scientific holocaust, for magical reasons).
Mauriac (Cantal), France:
and a detail of a sinful variant
of the Ouroboros
for high-resolution enlargements by Tina Negus - and another
Amongst the beasts symbolising lascivious concupiscence is the
hare, in Classical times the animal associated with Venus. A
rare and primitive depiction of hares with a male exhibitionist
can be seen on a chancel-arch capital of an early Romanesque
church in Auvergne.
for an enlargement
On an English church
a classic vulva-pulling female exhibitionist (of the type now
commonly known as a Sheela-na-Gig) is approached with
intent by an ithyphallic, bearded man-beast, somewhat resembling
a Babylonian lion. The large limestone carving has been cut
to form a window-top on a tower built mainly from flint. Above
it is the church clock: Temporality combines powerfully with
lechery (from French lècher, to lick) and concupiscence.
for a high-resolution enlargement
coming from Barbary, represented the barbaric and blaspheming
(if not demonic) Moors, and, to emphasise the point, displayed
Droiturier (Allier), France
As well as fabulous beasts, beard-pullers,
are also well-known from hundreds of churches. But comparatively
rare are the exhibitionist versions of these motifs,
such as the megaphallic dolio-player (Givrezac,
San Isidoro, León,
for more at San Isidoro
Thorpe Arnold (Leicestershire),
for high-resolution enlargement by Tina Negus
for high-resolution enlargement
Megaphallic glutton, Barahona
Even some remote churches feature remarkable figures in frozen
demonstration of mortal sins - especially the sins of carnality
and consumption - to be avoided on pain of eternal punishment.
Studland (Dorset), England
to see some corbels
This web-page is dedicated
to the late Martha Weir,
who was amazed but unfazed by these carvings,
and without whom "Images
would never have been researched or written.
LIST of PHOTOGRAPHS of MALE and FEMALE EXHIBITIONISTS
on this site