The Silent Orgy
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the infernal consequences of illicit sex


exhibitionist carvings
on mediæval churches

Anthony Weir


female genital exhibitionists:
the sheela-na-gig conundrum




the column-swallower mystery


in the silent orgy




images of Luxuria


& the phallic continuum


field guide
to megalithic ireland


irish sweathouses


the earth-mother's


"images of lust"


beasts and monsters of the mediæval bestiaries




bibliographie / bibliography







searchSEARCH THIS SITEthis site



South Doorway, Lincoln Cathedral







Exterior stone corbel on the church of Saint-Pierre-d'Excideuil (Vienne), France.

Male Figures: part I


click for a female in the same church

Interior corbel, church of Sainte-Radegonde, Poitiers (Vienne), France

The word Fascination derives from the Roman
a tiny model of an erect penis often contained in a bulla or locket
for boys to wear around their neck in anticipation of their mature virility and its gender-status.

But for the fourth-century former 'Cathar' Saint Augustine of Hippo, erectile male lust was both the cause and the effect of Original Sin.

The male erection was both the symptom and the innate disease caused by the insuperable power of Satan which was displayed by the involuntariness of penile erection. This involition was most dramatically demonstrated by the erection of the Hanged Man. The most notorious hanged man was Judas, the betrayer for money, the victim of Satan through greed for money, and the unredeemable suicide. Judas thus embodied the three most terrible sins of Christian Europe: avaritia, concupiscentia and suicide.

The sins of sexual desire were listed by St Paul in his Epistle to the Galatians, chapter five. These are somewhat vaguely and prudishly described in terms such as Lusts of the Flesh, Uncleanness, and so on, thus giving plenty of opportunity to those inclined to condemn any sexual act not in the 'missionary position' and not for the purpose of procreation. (The latter has recently been evoked as an argument against same-sex marriage.)

Many male exhibitionists on Romanesque churches have scrotal sacs disproportionally larger even than their disproportionate penises. The modern French for scrotum is bourse, the word also for money-bag or purse. (Spanish bolsa, Italian borsa.) Purses were made from the scrota of boars, bulls, rams and goats. Thus the 'licentious' motif of the male exhibitionist incorporated, through the medium of the pun which has been largely ignored by commentators on Romanesque art, the motif of the Moneybags, and the usurer.

The product of the diabolical power of the penis was semen, a pollution which ensured that every human born was contaminated by evil. Augustine thus - contrary to scripture - asserted that, despite the possibility of our 'redemption through Jesus', men and Man had no Divine gift of Freedom of the will.

Augustine's horror of the erection - at odds with almost every culture on the planet, and even with the declarations of the contemporaneous Council of Elvira - dominated European thought and society from the fifth century to the twenty-first.

Listen to an illuminating 45-minute discussion on the Twelfth-century Renaissance
and / or download the mp3 file


"He had read somewhere that Love had been invented in the eleventh century by the troubadours.
Why had they not left us with lust ?"

- Graham Greene, The Heart of the Matter.

Interior corbel, Poitiers Cathedral, France

The twelfth century was the most prodigious period of building in human history, with tens of thousands of churches built (in the style called Romanesque) across the length and breadth of Europe from Norway to Sicily and across the Mediterranean to Palestine, and Ireland to Hungary and Dalmatia. Tens of thousands of trees were felled to provide scaffolding and structural timbers.

Skilled sculptors and masons could move from a contract on the shores of the Mediterranean to another on the shores of the Baltic within a fortnight, bringing new motifs and improved techniques with them. Communications, obviously, were much better than in later times. Many Roman roads were still viable. In recent times, French masons and sculptors all came from the Limousin (modern Creuse). The main school of sculpture in France was evidently farther West in Romanesque times, in the Atlantic lowlands where some very fine and durable limestones could be quarried, and where the greatest concentration of Romanesque churches is to be found.

This explosion of energy reflected, and further contributed to, an economic boom that led to the rise of cities, the export of money and criminals on Crusade, and the decline of the monasteries which had generated wealth by their greatly-increased land-cultivation and output.

The history of Christianity- a religion of cheap miracles and false humility - is a history of infamy. The Romanesque period (from the 10th to the end of the 12th centuries) was that of the first three Crusades and the ongoing 'reconquest' of tolerant, cosmopolitan and enlightened Spain: horrible hate-filled campaigns of terror - for 'Christianity' is ironically and essentially a religion of hate, especially (and consistently since the 11th century) against Muslims.

Many of these churches presented to illiterate parishioners 'sermons in stone' through carved glimpses of Heaven and Hell on their doorways (or painted as murals on walls), and images of sin (and, occasionally, virtue) on the stone corbel-tables (like the one below) which supported their rooves. They resemble the emblem-books distributed in later centuries by the Jesuits, with their moral tales of storks and pelicans drawn from the bestiaries.

Click for high-resolution enlargement.

Saint-Contest (Calvados), France
click for high-resolution enlargement

Some very important churches (for example, on the Pilgrim Roads across Europe and the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela, which were tramped by millions of feet and hooves every year) had whole façades wonderfully carved with apocalyptic and heavenly scenes designed to instruct the pilgrim.

click to Click to enlarge enlarge

Tuscania (Viterbo), Italy
click for detail of tricephalos

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 ever doubted.

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


click for more at Givrezac

Male exhibitionist with barrel-like dolio, Givrezac (Charente-Maritime), France

Acrobats 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.

At St. James', Louth (Lincolnshire) a male exhibitionist plays a fife and drum.

photo by Chris Marshall

Harp- and Rote-players
are not uncommon.

click to enlarge

Corullón (León), Spain

and rub shoulders with beasts such as pigs and dogs and bears who, even when not ithyphallic, represent lusts and degradation.

click for click for more more

Plaisance-sur-Gartempe (Vienne)

click for more

Ithyphallic bear on the church tower at Aston Somerville (Gloucestershire)

Bear-cults 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).

click to click to enlarge enlarge

Window-voussoir, Annaghdown (Galway), Ireland


Mauriac (Cantal), France: absidiole corbels
and a detail of a sinful variant of the Ouroboros or Ourobolos

click to enlarge
click for high-resolution enlargements by Tina Negus - and another example

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.

click to enlarge

Saint-Etienne-de-Vicq (Allier)
click 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.

Whittlesford (Cambridgeshire), England
click for a high-resolution enlargement

Apes, coming from Barbary, represented the barbaric and blaspheming (if not demonic) Moors, and, to emphasise the point, displayed their circumcisions.

click for click to enlarge more apes

Droiturier (Allier), France

As well as fabulous beasts, beard-pullers, foliage-spewers, mouth-pullers, tongue-stickers and column-swallowers 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, above), mouth-puller...

San Isidoro, León, Spain
click for more at San Isidoro


photo by Tina Negus

Thorpe Arnold (Leicestershire), England
click for high-resolution enlargement by Tina Negus


Click for high-resolution enlargement.

Champagnolles (Charente-Maritime), France
click for high-resolution enlargement


click for click for another view another view

Megaphallic glutton, Barahona (Segovia), Spain

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.

Atlas-exhibitionist, La Godivelle (Puy-de-Dome), France :
note the belt which is holding an object which might be
a key or a sculpting-tool.

Click for details.

Studland (Dorset), England
click 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 of Lust"
would never have been researched or written.


Click here for a related essay:


on this site

the nature of 'christianity'


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