Finding out Why a Rude Man is the Most Visited Icon in Dorset

Posted in Europe | March 30, 2010 | 0 Comments

I am talking of the Cerne Abbas Giant, also called the Cerne Giant and the Rude Man. No, no! This is not a living man but a chalk drawing of a bare man carrying a club on a hillside in the village of Cerne Abbas in Dorset of England. Unsurprisingly, this giant drawing is the most visited attraction here despite the fact that no one knows the identity, origin, and story of this sketch. However, many theories exist stating it a prehistoric fertility god to a 17th century outline of Oliver Cromwell.


According to the records, his first presence was noticed in 1694 in the accounts of the churchwarden of St. Mary’s Church in the county for some restoration work and that it then appeared as the symbol on lead plaques on the church’s roof.

Many people are of the opinion that he is a Celtic fertility god or symbol mostly due to the fact that there is a mound beneath the Giant’s left hand, which might have been a relic of a detached head – a common Celtic religious symbol. Strengthening this belief is the discovery of another chalk drawing on hillside known as the White Horse of Uffington that also belong to this early era and the Trendle, an earthwork on the above hill, is also from the Iron Age.

Other theory suggests that the Giant is the Greco-Roman hero Hercules who was often described as undressed with a club in his right hand. However, he wore a lion skin on his left shoulder to which the expert says that the Giant’s left side must have wore something. Building up the belief is that many Roman terracotta statues of the Giant are seen in the Museum of Arles in France.

A third belief is that the Benedictine monks of the nearby Cerne Abbey drew this sketch, as a similar figure had been seen close to the Benedictine Priory at Wilmington. Still a diverse belief, but an interesting one is that the Cerne Abbas Giant is a 17th century parody of Oliver Cromwell drawn somewhere in between 1642 to 1666 to mock at the rule of Oliver Cromwell who was known by his enemies as the England’s Hercules.

Still, the answers to the questions are not clear. However, a popular local belief is that the Giant helps in fertility as young women used to sleep on him to guarantee a marriage.

The Drawing

The Cerne Abbas Giant is a figure on a grassy hillside to the north of the village with a quite famous penis, a small head, and simple, but comical face that do not go along with the intensity of his appearance. Loot at his right hand where he wields a knobbed and long club, while a glance at his left hand would reveal that it is outspread and oddly long, which would once have held a detached head or lion skin.

Do not think that somebody must have drawn this figure with a white thick chalk over the grasses. This drawing has been made by simply cutting the grass in the required shape of a man to expose the underlying white land following the insertion of a chalk infill that is not original, but the periodically restored one.

If you look over the left shoulder of the Giant, there is a small square earthwork named as the Trendle, which according to the archeologists must have been from the Iron Age. Although its objective is not known, it is commonly believed to be the location of an old temple.

Other Attractions

Come here with time so that you can even visit the other more attractive places in the beautiful Cerne Abbas village. This list has the ruins of a rich Benedictine abbey, a holy well, and a superb 14th century church.

Reaching to the Drawing

Coming here with a helicopter is the best way to see this drawing. However, most of us like you and me would not be able to make so. Therefore, the Giant is best observed from the lay-by standpoint and the parking area on the A352 highway.

Currently, the Giant Hill is fenced to protect the figure from erosion. However, one can stroll around and above the Trendle on the footpath accessible from the parking area or the village offering magnificent vistas too.

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