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"QUANTUM SHOT" #653
Link - article by Simon Rose and Avi Abrams

      Grinning Gargoyles and Grimacing Grotesques

      We’ve all seen them, those odd looking carved faces, some with horns, some
      half animal or half human, often looking miserable, scowling at us from
      the outer walls of buildings. Often they’re spotted on churches and other
      older structures, but the practice of adding these ornamentations to more
      recently constructed buildings is quite common too.

      
      
      (images via
        1,
        2)

      So where did these things first come from? One story about
      the origin of gargoyles comes to us from France. It was said that a
      massive dragon dwelled in a cave on the banks of the Seine, attacking
      ships on the river and also terrorizing the local population of the city
      of Rouen. The people made a sacrifice to the ferocious beast each year,
      calling it La Gargouille. However, at some point in the in the seventh
      century, Saint Romanus, in true knight in shining armour fashion, slew the
      dragon. The monster’s body was burnt on a massive fire, but the head,
      being accustomed to heat from the beast’s fiery breath, resisted the
      flames. So the people decided to keep it and mount it on the wall of a
      local church, as a warning to any other dragons who might be thinking of
      setting up camp near their city. And so the tradition of gargoyles began,
      or at least, according to this story.

      
      
      (images via 1,
        2,
        3)

      In reality, it would appear that gargoyles first started to appear between
      the eleventh and thirteenth centuries, their primary purpose simply being
      to divert rainwater. The carved figures have open mouths and long necks
      because they are really just decorative spouts, directing rainwater
      away from the building’s foundations. The word ‘gargoyle’ derives
      from the Latin word ‘gurgulio’, meaning ‘throat’ and also
      refers to the sound of liquid passing through the throat. This word has
      naturally also been adapted into other related Latin based languages such
      as French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. The Egyptians, Greeks, Romans
      and other ancient cultures all employed decorative waterspouts on
      buildings to some degree, often in the shape of a lion’s head, but the
      gargoyles we are most familiar with date from the Middle Ages.

      
      (image credit:
        Kevin Trotman)

      Gargoyles became a common sight in twelfth century Europe, especially on
      the outside walls of the continent’s great cathedrals. The stone carvings
      were usually quite scary depictions of people, animals, birds,
      mythological creatures, human/animal hybrids and so on, and very different
      to the statues or carvings of saints and other religious figures both
      inside and outside the same building. This was because as well as being
      simple drainage devices, gargoyles also served to remind the largely
      illiterate congregation of the nature of good and evil, plus
      encourage them to attend church. As was pointed out in the earlier
      articles here on Dark Roasted Blend entitled "Britain’s Colourful Pub
      Signs"
      Part One
      and
      Part Two, a visual reference was needed for the bulk of the population who
      couldn’t read.

      
      
      (images credit:
        Paul Malone,
        Ron Hilton)

      The cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris is famous for the gargoyles adorning
      the exterior of the building:

      
      
      
      (images via 1,
        2, 3,
        4)

      Also in Paris, here we see one of the gargoyles decorating the Basilica St
      Denis:

      
      (image credit:
        Angus McIntyre)

      While this one on the Basilica of the Sacre Coeur shows a view of the
      water channel (plus various water spouts disguised as fish, or tongues):

      
      (images via
        1,
        2)

      Various carved lions are guarding the Meaux Cathedral in France (left) and
      the Cathedral of Tarragona in Catalonia in northern Spain (right):

      
      (images via
        1,
        2)

      These fearsome looking creatures can be seen on the
      St.-Petrus-en-Pauluskerk in Ostend in Belgium (below left); while these
      dragon-inspired carvings decorate Ulm Cathedral in Germany (right):

      
      (images via
        1,
        2)

      The United Kingdom has a large number of medieval religious structures.
      These gargoyles are from York Minster:

      
      (images via
        1,
        2)

      These are from Westminster Abbey in London:

      
      
      (images via 1,
        2)

      Gargoyles weren’t restricted to religious structures, as we can see from
      these examples decorating Windsor Castle (below left). The one below right
      is situated on the roof of Himeji Castle in Hyogo, Japan:

      
      (images via
        1,
        2)

      Gargoyles at the Concert Hall in Valencia, Spain (designed by the famous
      Santiago Calatrava):

      
      (image credit:
        Angria)

      The outer corners of the 61st floor of the Chrysler Building in New York
      feature these stainless steel eagles, replicas of the hood ornaments of
      1929 Chrysler vehicles:

      
      (image
        via)

      "Terror Behind the Walls" haunted prison tours are held at Eastern State
      Penitentiary (abandoned since 1971) - complete with some of the most
      frightening gargoyles we've ever seen (more
      info):

      
      (images
        via)

      Not really a gargoyle, but a great monster statue spotted in the abandoned
      South Korean park:

      
      (image credit:
        Jon Dunbar)

      "A whimsical architect is said to be responsible for a group of figures in
      the ceiling of the main entrance to a fashionable church in Fifth Avenue,
      New York." (more
      info):

      
      (images
        via)

      In Saratov, Russia, this howling gargoyle was spotted on the 1902
      College-Conservatory of Music - probably making the most horrible sounds
      imaginable:

      
      (images
        via)

      In South America, Quito Cathedral in Ecuador has a collection of
      gargoyles. In this case however, rather than the traditional figures we’re
      used to seeing, the Quito gargoyles depict the native animals of Ecuador
      and the Galapagos Islands:

      
      
      (images via
        1,
        2)

      A common question is whether a carved figure is a gargoyle or is it a
      grotesque? Even if every gargoyle might indeed be grotesque, all
      grotesques are not gargoyles. As I mentioned earlier, if it serves as a
      drainpipe, it’s a gargoyle (here is one with a saber ice "teeth" making it
      even more fearsome - see
      here). A grotesque or chimera is a very similar figure on a building, but
      doesn’t have the purpose of leading water away from the structure as a
      drainage device. In North America, for example, buildings constructed in
      the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries often have decorations that
      everyone nonetheless refer to as gargoyles.

      
      (image via)

      These walruses decorate the Arctic Club Building in Seattle (below left);
      Fire Department Headquarters in Philadelphia features these firemen
      gargoyles (below right):

      
      (images via
        1,
        2)

      Strange Alien-like figures can be seen on the Nativity of the Blessed
      Virgin Mary Chapel in Flagstaff, Arizona (below left). The "ruffled
      chicken creature" (below right) is from the University of Chicago:

      
      (images via
        1,
        2,
        3)

      Some weird character spotted on the Tours Cathedral, France (below left) -
      and a guy chewing his toenails, from Rufford Park, Nottingham, UK (below
      right):

      
      (images credit:
        Gemma Longman,
        Andrea Schaffer)

      One on top of the other (Eglise Saint-Germain L’Auxerrois, Paris):

      
      (image via)

      "The Scream": some gargoyles refuse to be silenced (Troyes, France) -

      
      (image
        via)

      This guy is laughing and seems to be perpetually content (Gent, Belgium):

      
      (image via)

      Listening to the wrong voice (below left):

      
      (images via 1,
        2)

      This interesting looking, humorous fellow can be seen on the outer wall of
      the tower of York Minster:

      
      (image credit:
        VT Professor)

      Indeed, even Darth Vader (the Face of the Evil Empire) adorns the
      Washington National Cathedral, Washington - more
      info:

      
      (images
        via,
        source)

      Absolutely fantastic dragon, spotted in Copenhagen:

      
      (image credit:
        Paul Malone)

      So there you are, the first part of our series about gargoyles - those
      ugly, sometimes funny, invariably bizarre, at times almost demonic looking
      figures. Send us other examples you spotted, for inclusion in Part Two!

      
      (Gargoyle jumping from the cathedral of Ulm - image credit:
        Alex)

      CONTINUE TO PART TWO! ->

      ALSO READ: "MAGNIFICENT PIPE ORGANS" ->

      ALSO READ: "INCREDIBLE ASTRONOMICAL CLOCKS" ->

      Simon Rose is the
        author of science fiction and fantasy novels for children, including
        The Alchemist's Portrait,
        The Sorcerer's Letterbox,
        The Clone Conspiracy,
        The Emerald Curse,
        The Heretic's Tomb
        and
        The Doomsday Mask.




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YOUR COMMENTS::

11 Comments:

Anonymous Peter said...

Nice Post.
A Dutch word for Gargoyles is 'Waterspuwer'. (translated: 'Waterspitter')

Some examples, all Belgium:
Sint-Rombauts Cathedral, Mechelen
Sint-Quintinuskathedraal, Hasselt
Ghent:
Sint-Pieters Railway Station
(build in 1913 for World Fair)
not strickly Gargoyle, Caermen Cloyster

___  
Anonymous For 91 Days said...

What about the perverted Gargoyles at La Lonja in Valencia?

http://www.holavalencia.net/2008/07/07/la-lonja-valenicas-unesco-world-heritage-site/

or the astronaut in Salamanca:

http://www.random-good-stuff.com/2010/07/31/the-astronaut-of-salamanca/

___  
Blogger Ken Walton said...

No collection of gargoyles would be complete without this one from the cathedral in Freiburg, Germany :-)
http://www.flickr.com/photos/39285097@N02/3684151472/

___  
Anonymous Alexandre said...

Don't forget Ahmed, Lyon's cathedral latest adornment :

http://www.france24.com/en/20100906-ahmed-muslim-gargoyle-adorns-french-cathedral

___  
Blogger The Vicar of VHS said...

The New Town Hall in Munich has some great grotesques as well, for next time.

___  
Blogger mike fox said...

great blog, and i LOVE this post! great shots.

___  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chicago Public library in downtown chicago!!! how could you guys miss that one!!!!???? they are massive!

___  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thank you for your blog - watching it for almost two years now and spreading the news.

In Polish we call them pukers ;-)

Very nice are on Pragues St. Vitus Cathedral.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gargoyle_St._Vitus_Cathedral_Prague_2.jpg

http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-1971869/stock-photo-gothic-style-gargoyle-on-st-vitus-cathedral-prague.html

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Blogger Ultimate Privacy said...

Wow no way dude that is just WAY too cool!

Lou
www.online-privacy.eu.tc

___  
Anonymous LittleInsect said...

This handsome fellow adorns the National War Memorial building at Edinburgh Castle in Scotland

http://i278.photobucket.com/albums/kk101/LittleInsect/Odds/100_0438.jpg

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Anonymous G said...

I’m pretty confident that the English word “Gargoyle” originates phonetically from the French word “Gargouille” since gargouille is actually a French verb [gargouiller = to gurgle].

___  

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