The Mysterious Stone Creatures On Buildings: 36 Creepy Gargoyles From Around the World


In architecture, a gargoyle or a 'grotesque', is a stone sculpture usually made of granite. They adorn many old stone buildings. Many people look at these strange and sometimes scary beasts made of stone and ask themselves why the architects decided to create these statues? Was it for beauty? For mystical protection?

1. Natural History Museum, London, England

Gargoyles are carved or formed sculptures with a spout designed to convey water from a roof and away from the side of a building.

2. Oakland Cemetery, Atlanta, Georgia

The term originates from the French gargouille, which in English is likely to mean "throat" or is otherwise known as the "gullet"; cf. Latin gurgulio, gula, gargula ("gullet" or "throat") and similar words derived from the root gar, "to swallow," which represented the gurgling sound of water

3. San Juan de los Reyes Monastery, Toledo, Spain

It is also connected to the French verb gargariser, which shares a Latin root with the verb "gargle" and is likely imitative in origin.

4. Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France

They are usually built to be an elongated shape standing away from the building, so they can funnel the water as far away from the building as possible.

5. Cologne Cathedral, Cologne, Germany

So, these stone beasts are actually there to prevent rainwater from running down the masonry wall and slowly eroding the mortar between the stones, thereby weakening the structure.

6. Cathedral of Quito, Quito, Ecuado

When not constructed as a waterspout and only serving an ornamental or artistic function, the correct term for such a sculpture is a grotesque, chimera, or boss. Just as with bosses and chimeras, gargoyles are said to frighten off and protect those that it guards, such as a church, from any evil or harmful spirits.

7. Palau de la Generalitat de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain

However, in common usage, the word "gargoyle" is generally used to describe any monstrous sculpture, whether intended as a waterspout or not. Whatever the reason, it's hard not to be affected by these bizarre creations!

8. Forbidden City, Beijing, China

The term gargoyle is most often applied to medieval work, but throughout all ages, some means of water diversion, when not conveyed in gutters, was adopted.

9. Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France

In Ancient Egyptian architecture, gargoyles showed little variation, typically in the form of a lion's head. Similar lion-mouthed water spouts were also seen on Greek temples. An excellent example of this are the 39 remaining lion-headed water spouts on the Temple of Zeus.

10. Washington National Cathedral, Washington D.C., USA

Many medieval cathedrals included gargoyles and chimeras. The most famous examples are those of Notre Dame de Paris. Although most have grotesque features, the term gargoyle has come to include all types of images. Some gargoyles were depicted as monks, or combinations of real animals and people, many of which were humorous.

11. Marble Church, Bodelwyddan, Clwyd, Wales

There is also a French legend about Gargoyles that sprang up around the name of St. Romanus (French: Romain; fl. c. 631 – 641 AD), the former chancellor of the Merovingian king Clotaire II who was made bishop of Rouen, and how he delivered the country around Rouen from a monster called Gargouille or Goji.

12. St. Nicholas Church, Lüneburg, Germany

La Gargouille is said to have been the typical dragon with batlike wings, a long neck, and the ability to breathe fire from its mouth. There are multiple versions of the story, either that St. Romanus subdued the creature with a crucifix, or he captured the creature with the help of the only volunteer, a condemned man.

13. Peace Tower on Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Canada

In each, the monster is led back to Rouen and burned, but its head and neck would not burn due to being tempered by its own fire breath. The head was then mounted on the walls of the newly built church to scare off evil spirits, and used for protection. In commemoration of St. Romain, the Archbishops of Rouen were granted the right to set a prisoner free on the day that the reliquary of the saint was carried in procession.

14. Cologne Cathedral, Cologne, Germany

Why are gargoyles so scary?

15. Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France

In middle ages, the primary use of the gargoyle was to illustrate evil through the form of the gargoyle.

16. Reims Cathedral, Reims, France

During the 12th century, when gargoyles appeared in Europe, the Roman Catholic Church was growing stronger and converting many new people. Most of the population at this time were illiterate, and therefore images were very important to convey ideas.

17. University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

Many early gargoyles depicted some version of a dragon, especially in France. In addition to serving as spouts for water, the gaping mouths of these gargoyles evoked the fearsome destructiveness of these legendary beasts, reminding the laity of the need for the church's protection.

18. University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia

Not everyone in In the Catholic Church was a fan of gargoyles. 12th century, St. Bernard of Clairvaux was famous for speaking out against gargoyles:

"What are these fantastic monsters doing in the cloisters before the eyes of the brothers as they read? What is the meaning of these unclean monkeys, these strange savage lions, and monsters? To what purpose are here placed these creatures, half beast, half man, or these spotted tigers? I see several bodies with one head and several heads with one body. Here is a quadruped with a serpent's head, there a fish with a quadruped's head, then again an animal half horse, half goat... Surely if we do not blush for such absurdities, we should at least regret what we have spent on them."

19. Château d’Amboise, Amboise, France

Today, many people find gargoyles and grotesques fascinating. Whether ornamental or functional, their symbolism and ability to stir the emotions of those that gaze upon them is intriguing.

20. Princeton University, New Jersey, USA

Below you will find a collection of many other examples of gargoyles and grotesques around the world.

21. Winchester Cathedral, Winchester, England

22. Biltmore Estate, North Carolina, USA

23. Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim, Norway

24. Cathedral of Santa Eulalia, Barcelona, Spain

25. Palma Cathedral, Palma, Mallorca, Spain

26. Magdalen College, Oxford, England

27. Zagreb Cathedral, Zagreb, Croatia

28. Washington National Cathedral, Washington D.C., USA

29. Hospital de Sant Pau, Barcelona, Spain

30. Westminster Abbey, London, England

31. Palau de la Generalitat de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain

32. St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh, Scotland

33. Notre Dame de l’Épine, Marne, France

34. Plummer Building, Rochester, Minnesota

35. Cheshire, England

36. Château d’Amboise, Amboise, France


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