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Hunt for pagan cross 'banished' by priest

IT'S a mystery that involves an over-zealous priest, fairies and a missing pagan cross.

Now an archaeological dig hopes to find out just what happened to a granite cross which vanished 60 years ago.

Legend has it that a Catholic priest ordered it to be removed from the front of St Patrick's Church in Wicklow town because of its explicit carvings.

Other rumours say local residents had complained it attracted fairies.

Some residents, though, believe the cross may have been buried in the church grounds by Fr Matthew Blake, now deceased, because he disliked the carvings of nude women on it.

The cross was almost forgotten until an old picture of the church appeared on the town's Facebook page.

Now a team of volunteers -- led by the local war memorial committee -- are trying to find the cross.

With the permission of local clergy, a ground survey was conducted last weekend in an area of the church grounds where it's believed the monument may be buried. Archaeology experts have been consulted and the team hope to begin a dig in May.

Stan J O'Reilly, secretary of the town's historical society, said Fr Blake was a "very determined man" and it's likely he had it removed.

"I've asked a lot of people about it and the story is that the parish priest at the time, Fr Blake, saw something on it he did not like -- something like a nude figure, which was possibly a 'sheela na gig'.

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These carvings show women displaying exaggerated genitalia.

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