K3D – Bishop Wellesley Tomb

Bishop Wellesley Tomb – Effigial in 3D

Text and Model by Digital Heritage Age (additional text by NMS)


St Brigid’s Cathedral, Wellesley Tomb (National Monument KD022-029034-)
Bishop Walter Wellesley’s tomb is a feast of medieval sculpture. The Tomb was originally located at at Great Connell, County Kildare. The remains of the tomb are located in the Cathedral in Kildare. The Sheela is carved under the top left corner of the tomb. The sheela is ‘chubby’ and typical ‘cherub’ like hair, uni-brow eyes nose and mouth clearly defined. She have two uneven round breasts, and hands holding back the feet, legs bent at the knees. Her navel is ‘boomerang’ shaped, pointing downwards. She has a line defining her waist. It is unclear if the carvings around the genitals are intended to be public hair, or if this carving may be a ‘Cherub’. The tomb include dragons, human figures, angles, beasts, saints, and crucifixion and resurrection scenes.

For more details see below the model for the entry from the Historic Environment Viewer

NOTE: download size is 55MB.

Entry form the Historic Environment Viewer

Tomb – effigial (present location) KD022-029034-: The County Kildare Archaeological Society were responsible for removing the Walter Wellesley Tomb from Great Connell Abbey (KD023-016—) to Kildare Cathedral for safekeeping in 1971. The tomb was re-erected in S transept of Kildare Cathedral on 17 July 1971. Prior to this move the effigial tomb had been broken up into several fragments that had been inserted into the S face of the W wall of the graveyard either side of the entrance gate. Photographs taken by Edwin Rae show the fragments incorporated into the W wall of the abbey graveyard (KD023-016001-) (http://hdl.handle.net/2262/34868).

The Urban Survey of Kildare (Bradley et. al. 1986 vol. 3, 228-9 Fig. 104) described the effigial tomb as following; ‘Of limestone, the end panels are complete but the side panels only survive in fragmentary sections (L 1.9m; Wth 0.98m; H 0.94m). The Bishop is depicted under a pinnacled and crocketed canopy which is supported by two angels carrying shields emblazoned with crosses, the arms of Wellesley. He wears an amice or neck-scarf, a chasuble decorated with a central panel of fine embroidery, a fringed dalmatic, an alb and a girdle. His manipled left hand holds a foliated, in-turned crozier and the gloved right hand is raised in blessing. The feet rest against a socle decorated with foliage. The lower edge of the slab has a concave chamfer decorated in relief with sprays of foliage, three face masks with foliage springing from the mouths (‘green men’), two grotesques, one figure blowing two trumpets and a shiela-na-gig. A marginal inscription in incised Gothic lettering reads:
Translation: ‘Here lies brother Walter Wellesley, formerly bishop of Kildare and commendatory prior of this house, on whose soul God have mercy, who died in the year of the Lord 15[39].’

The reconstructed tomb panels consist of a number of fragments which appear to have been carved by different hands, and the E side panel did not belong to this tomb originally. The head end-panel bears an ‘Ecce Homo’; the foot end-panel bears a crucifixion; the W side-panel, in two parts, depicts SS John the Evangelist, Patrick and Peter; the E side panel depicts SS Andrew, Thaddeus and Matthias’. Cross-referenced with KD023-016008-. (Hunt 1974, 163)

Compiled by: Gearóid Conroy

Revised by: Caimin O’Brien

Date of revised upload: 24 April 2019


  • 1. Bradley, J., Halpin, A., and King, H.A. 1986 Urban Archaeological Survey – County Kildare (4 vols.). Unpublished report commissioned by the Office of Public Works, Dublin.
  • 2. Hunt, J. 1974 Irish medieval figure sculpture 1200-1600, 2 vols. Dublin. Irish University Press.