Famous Gothic buildings

About Gothic gargoyles

About Gothic Gargoyles. A gargoyle is an architectural decoration, usually found on the exterior of large buildings which were constructed during the medieval Gothic period. Most gargoyles are not homogeneous in form or appearance; their only similarity is their grotesque and outlandish features. Some appear like simple faces carved into the ledges.


The first known gargoyle was believed to have appeared about 600 BC. The great fire-breathing dragon named La Gargouille terrorized a small village near the river Seine in what is now known as France. Romanis, a questing Christian knight who was later declared a Saint, arrived. He promised to kill the dragon if the people of the village converted to Christianity and built a Church. When they agreed that he confronted the dragon, subdued it with the sign of the cross, and burned it in Dole. The animal’s head and neck were impervious to the flame, and thus, they were installed on a newly built Church. This is the first report of the gargoyles.


The building of gargoyles in one form or another existed long before the Gothic period. Combination of humanoid and animal characteristics draws heavily from Egyptian and Sumerian depictions of gods and demons. In fact, the definition of the gargoyles was changed quite late in the history of the structure. To the last of the Gothic period, any such structures or persons on the building was considered a gargoyle. After that period, only those that contained jet for rain water, could be called gargoyles. Any other number called grotesque. In that sense, gargoyles have existed since the early Greeks. Their buildings spoke of the jet that were designed to keep the rainwater separate from the funds of the building. The concept experienced a revival during the construction boom in the United States. Many great old buildings built in the art Deco design in cities such as new York, Chicago and Philadelphia sport gargoyles rimming the ledges. Unfortunately, modern construction methods do not use exterior stone or concrete ledges and have no need for these decorative jets. They are considered too expensive and dangerous. Aging gargoyles, ruined by time and rain do occasionally come crashing down, causing serious damage to the streets as well as potentially killing people.


The original purpose of the gargoyle is a bit different than what it later was used. Initially, the presence of a Gothic gargoyle on a building such as a Church or Assembly hall was supposed to repel demons. How this was done is still debated. Gargoyles may have been used as a way to mock the demons, saying that the request of the God protected the building from their presence. Another interpretation is that the stone and metal of the gargoyles were used as decoys in an attempt to fool the fleeting demons into thinking that the structure was already filled and corrupted with demonic presence. Therefore, the real demons would have no reason to join. Modern gargoyles, built in the latest Gothic period as well as Renaissance periods in 18’s, 19’s and 20’s centuries, were used as drainpipes. The mouths of the gargoyles were leaks, which carried the rainwater that had gathered on the roof down and away from buildings on which they were built.

The value

Gothic gargoyles are significant in that they represent a time when evil spirits, demons and the devil were very real. God had no comprehensive power and protection that Christianity now suggests. This is probably due to the fact that many of the more obscure parts of the continent have not yet been fully instructed in the Christian faith, combined with this much in the way of local superstitions and beliefs. It also represents a period of architecture that is now almost completely extinct. Modern architects have lost most of the knowledge had to build some of the largest Gothic buildings, which were installed gargoyle.


Gargoyle is mainly relegated to the northeastern part of the United States, as well as parts of Western and Central Europe. The oldest city in the Western world most likely the ones that show gargoyles – places such as Prague, Paris, Philadelphia and new York. Several famous gargoyles can be found in Notre Dame in Paris, the library of Princeton University, the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., and many of the oldest crypts and mausoleums in New Orleans. There are still many gargoyles around us than we realize, but most people do not have the habit to look.

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