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Gargoyles: Not Just a Pretty Face

Updated on November 18, 2014
This is not a model for a Rolling Stone’s album, it is a gargoyle found in ecclesiastical architecture.
This is not a model for a Rolling Stone’s album, it is a gargoyle found in ecclesiastical architecture. | Source

... a trough was placed behind the gargoyle, little pipes projected from the carving and the gargoyle ‘spit’ water from to wall in order to reduce rain damage to the building. Groups of gargoyles divided the flow of rainwater.

Legend goes that the above, while a brilliant architectural idea, the city of Rouen where St. Romanus saved the city of Rouen from the alleged monster Goji (note the word “monster”). Slain by villagers, the head was perched on top of a building for people to see. Neither the head itself would die, nor would Goji stop spitting water (authenticirelandtravel). Thus was the beginning of monster to gutter spout evolution!

What are gargoyles? Defenders against evil to some, decoration or ugliness against beauty (yin and yang) to others. Are they insurers against building collapse as many believed or in just plain fun. With the latter, of course we all know that medieval folk had grand senses of humor???! Possibly all of the above, we do not know. They are, and sometimes that is enough.

While lots of gargoyles are ‘grotesque’ animals, human forms or a combination of both, beauty is in the eye of the beholder isn’t it? And no two are alike. Some are griffins, some gorgons and sphinxes, but again if they don’t spout or spit, they aren’t gargoyles. Many gargoyles were caricatures of ‘bosses’ or evil slumlords, etc. When times became less fearsome, gargoyles started to become more whimsical, that is except the caricatures of ever-scary ‘bosses’ (gargoyles and bosses still exist and are still terrifying).

Paisley Abbey Gargoyle 13
Paisley Abbey Gargoyle 13 | Source

Famous Gargoyles

The Notre Dame “true” spouting and spitting statues took up residence in the late 1100s. You’ll find them occupying space near the flying buttresses and they cap the towers. There are also strictly decorous chimeras said to watch people travel through Paris.

Besides the Notre Dame gargoyles, bands of the merry are found them throughout Europe, in Spain, the Netherlands and various sites of Ancient Egyptians, Etruscans, Greeks and Romans.

In the United States, look up at the Chrysler building, residence of stainless steel versions) in NYC. Also the Washington National Cathedral and universities like Princeton, Chicago and Duke.

Notre Dame Gargoyle
Notre Dame Gargoyle | Source

"People ask me what it's like being a gargoyle... well, to be honest, most of the time you have a very cold bottom." (Lonely Male Gargoyle[src] – HarryPotterWi

Time and progress march on and the invention of drainpipes downsized gargoyles and they became obsolete. Those remaining are having trouble protecting themselves from smokestacks, cars, acid rains and fogs, slowly eating away the limestone. “Who will watch over us then?” someone asked. Maybe it is time for us to watch us. There is a message isn’t there.


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