The Cerne Abbas Giant

Cerne Abbas giant
Cerne Abbas giant

The Cerne Abbas Giant is also known as the “Rude Man”, for obvious reasons. It is the largest hill drawing in Britain and one of only two human representations. The figure is carved into the chalk of the hillside and is 180 feet tall. The club he carries is 120 feet long. The figure was meant to be seen from below, so aerial photographs give a rather distorted image of the giant.

Although the figure was not mentioned in any documents prior to the 18th century, it is believed to be much older. Iron Age earthworks in the area, suggest that it might even date from this period. There have been various theories as to who the man is intended to represent. But the most popular is that it dates from the time of the Roman conquest, when Hercules was worshipped as a god. Another suggestion is that this is a figure carved by the Vikings, representing one of their gods.

Cerne Abbas giant cock
Cerne Abbas giant detail

Whatever the derivation of the figure, lots of local folklore is now attached to it. Much of this has to do with fertility rights, not surprising in view of the endowments of the giant! Women who wanted to conceive spent the night alone on the hillside and couples would even make love on the figure to ensure fertility.

If the figure is as old as it suspected, it is surprising that the religious establishment allowed it to remain. It can only be supposed that this was part of the incorporation of pagan beliefs into the body of the faith, to ensure locals converted to Christianity.

Cerne Abbas