...small acts of dissent are the lifeblood of revolution.
June 3, 2022 5:20 AM   Subscribe

There are amazingly incongruous, seemingly unChristian gothic motifs on many churches… and then there’s a drain spout fashioned such that the water is cascading down from a widely spread anus. Wow.

Those last few days at work making sure the church got everything they paid for must have been something else!
posted by thoroughburro at 5:28 AM on June 3 [3 favorites]

Yes lol you love to picture the stonemason's apprentice snickering to himself all "ahahaha the archbishop might literally murder me for this but, WORTH IT, fuck that guy"
posted by potrzebie at 5:42 AM on June 3 [8 favorites]

I have a dim memory, which Uncle Google can't seem to help me confirm or deny, of something our Beefeater guide told us when I toured the Tower of London back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. I seem to remember him saying that you could tell if Grinling Gibbons had been paid for his woodworking or not by the presence or absence of acorns in the carving.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:05 AM on June 3

Reminds me of one of my sister's ex boyfriends in college, except he did the penis art for funsies, not as a way to get one over on people who had stiffed him on his work. It's possible he was doing it to annoy his art professors, but the plaster cock and balls on a wooden plinth he made for himself and displayed in the living room makes me think that it wasn't that deep at all.

He had quite the collection. A painting of a neon yellow Jesus on the cross with a third leg, a giant linoleum carving of a cock and balls covered in leaves, and the room sized lino carving of a dead Jesus with a several foot long cock lolling over the side of his body in Mary's arms floating up in the clouds are just the ones I remember most vividly. That last one took an entire afternoon to print.
posted by wierdo at 6:20 AM on June 3 [5 favorites]

See also: sheela na gig
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:31 AM on June 3 [3 favorites]

These are hilarious but I'm skeptical about the "ripped off artisans" explanation. I'd be curious what the anecdotal evidence cited actually is. As the article says, "an aggrieved church having to hire scaffolding to hack each offending protuberance off by hand". That would not have been a PITA but doable. Yet it was not done.
posted by Nelson at 7:12 AM on June 3 [8 favorites]

Yeah, I could just as easily picture an artisan thinking, nobody's ever going to look closely at this, why not have a bit of fun.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:46 AM on June 3 [3 favorites]

"spirited salutation was created by a disgruntled medieval artisan."

This doesn't really track for me. Like, have you seen illuminated medieval manuscripts? And does anyone remember ancient talismans or fetishes? Lotta penises. As a species we've been carving our junk into shit for a couple hundred thousand years. Just something humans do, like singing. Really it's the church that has had the unusual and arguably anti-human attitude for the last couple thousand. And even then, I'm not sure this isn't just our modern stereotype of the church, from the last couple of hundred. Those manuscripts were largely written by monks, they're the ones who drew the dick-tree harvest in the margin.
posted by Horkus at 7:53 AM on June 3 [22 favorites]

This doesn't really track for me.

Ditto. Is there anything to corroborate the idea that these are "small acts of dissent" rather than just part of a well-established tradition of grotesque figuration in church art of the period? Because this has a whiff of "Swedes send the neighbour kids home for dinner because Vikings."
posted by wreckingball at 8:16 AM on June 3 [10 favorites]

How has this post been up for four whole hours without a MeFi medievalist coming in and setting us straight about this mystery? ABD Scholar of Obscene Gothic Carvings, I summon thee!
posted by gwint at 9:05 AM on June 3 [7 favorites]

Sexual carvings are so common in medieval churches that there's a whole book devoted to them (and an accompanying website, Satan in the Groin). There's still debate over how they should be interpreted: one theory is that they were illustrating the church's teaching on lust and immorality, another is that they were deliberately 'edgy' or transgressive, or were thought to have some kind of apotropaic power to protect against evil. But whatever the explanation, they certainly aren't rare (and were probably even less rare before nineteenth-century church restorers came along and destroyed a lot of them). So the idea that this is a solitary act of rebellion by a disgruntled artisan doesn't stand up to examination.
posted by verstegan at 9:06 AM on June 3 [7 favorites]

If you, like me, have so many adblockers installed that the Threadreader app only shows the text, here's the original tweets: https://twitter.com/folkhorrormagpi/status/1532291679415312390
posted by caution live frogs at 9:56 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]

The Bayeux Tapestry, depicting William the Conqueror's version of the Norman Invasion, has some 93 penises depicted, only 88 belonging to horses.

I think it may be a mistake to try too hard to map modern sensibilities about naughty bits to medieval culture.
posted by jenkinsEar at 3:50 PM on June 3 [3 favorites]

The idea that men need a reason to cover every surface they encounter with depictions of cocks is contradicted by (checks notes)...all of art history everywhere ever.

I'm just surprised they didn't come up with a way to do the two drops of spunk shooting out the tip.
posted by howfar at 10:34 PM on June 4 [2 favorites]

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