w.i.n. m.y. a.w.a.r.d.
The word gargoyle comes from the Old French word gargouille meaning
throat or gullet. This word is used to describe the sound that is
produced when water passes through the throat and mixes with air
(origin of the word gargle). This word was origionall used in reference
to the drains atop cathedrals which were later carved into the form of
beasts or animals. Gargoyles which combine several different animals
are also known as chimeras.
We generally describe gargoyles as any sculpted creature inhabitating
the upper levels of buildings, be they cathedrals or not. Although these
carvings are generally refered to as gargoyles, there is a difference
between gargoyles and grotesques; friezes and bosses.
True gargoyles were created for two purposes. One, to ward off evil
and second to eject excess water from the exterior of buildings. A
gargoyle is carved from a roof gutter to catch rainwater and throw it
clear of a building.
A grotesque is a style of art that is characterized by human or animal
figures distorting nature into absurdity. Grotesques were carved as
designs of figures for the adornment of buildings. At the same time
they were made to symbolize the desire to fight the power of evil.
Some grotesques were carved onto a frieze, which is a horizontal band
of decoration around the upper section of a wall, often ornamented with
The term boss is used to describe an ornamental projecting block which
can be found at the end of a moulding or an arch.
Although most gargoyles were portrayed as frightening figures, some
were meant to be a "sermon in stone". Churches would use visual images
to spread the scriptures to an illeterate population by using gargoyles,
stained glass, and sculptures.
A ledgend has it that a fierce dragon named La Gargouille lived in the
river near Paris and devoured ships and men. The village was saved by
Saint Romanis. After the battle, the creature was set ablaze and its
head and neck survived to be mounted on a building. This practice spread
and La Gargouille may have become the model for gargoyles.
Some believe that gargoyles were inspired directly from a passage in
the bible. Others believe that gargoyles represent deep rooted elements
within human nature; either by the love of the grotesque or man's
subconscience fears. Some also believe that gargoyles were inspired
by the skeletal remains of prehistoric beasts such as dinosaurs and
giant reptiles. Still others will argue that they are vestiges of Peganism
from an age when God would be heard in trees and river plains. Many
gargoyles are similar to the ledgends and figures of the ancient Celts,
such as the Green Man or Jack of the Green...the God of tree worship.
Gargoyles can be dragons, men, cats, bats, frogs, serpents and countless
others. They are still being carved today with many having a modern,
whimsical theme. Gargoyles have been with man for hundreds of years, and
they still seem to inspire the imagination of modern society.