The Building of the Cathedral
The Norse Cathedral
The Usage of the Cathedral in History
The Usage of the Cathedral Today
The Art of the Cathedral
Behind the Scenes in the Cathedral
Famous Orcadians & Others With Links
The Sheela-na-Gig on the south west pillar of the presbytery - SMC059
Capitals are the carved designs which decorate the tops of columns and piers. In St Magnus Cathedral a large number of different designs can be found. One of the most interesting capital decorations is the 'Sheela-na-Gig' which can be found on the south west pillar of the presbytery.
A 'Sheela-na-Gig' is a carving of a female figure, squatting with open legs and displaying her genitals. This type of carving looks grotesque and is a symbol of sinfulness and lust.
These carvings originated in eleventh century France from where it spread to Spain, England and Ireland. It became popular in Irish churches and 'Sheela-na-Gig' means woman of ill repute in Irish. Such carvings are quite scarce in Scotland.