Without going into further detail, the series was far from rainbows and sunshine with its monstrous protagonists and antiheroes, dark undertones and tendency for melodrama. Looking back, the series was an early, watered-down introduction to the Gothic and horror, but over twenty years later I still find myself gazing up at these fantastical stone beasts perched high above me on towering skyscrapers in Manhattan, cathedrals and churches, universities, town halls and stately homes throughout the United States and Western Europe.
There are many interpretations regarding their symbolic role in society, but their practical function as decorative gutters in architectural design is indisputable. Crafted to prevent masonry walls from eroding, unwanted rainwater is redirected from the roof of towering structures like cathedrals and university buildings through a trough carved into the back of the carved monster. The term has been diluted over the years and today gargoyle is often wrongly used as a generalisation for all monstrous sculptures, caricatures and fantastical creatures which appear on the exteriors of buildings.
While many of these statues usually do share similar supernatural and animalistic features to gargoyles, they serve no real purpose beyond the decorative and are actually grotesques or chimeras.
According to legend, a dragon known as La Gargouille resided in a cave near the River Seine in France. It was a nasty beastie who was notorious for swallowing ships, breathing fire and spouting—or vomiting—so much water from its mouth it caused flooding in the area. Instead, they presented criminals to La Gargouille, giving an altogether new meaning to the concept of capital punishment, but this did not placate the greedy beast.
Sometime around the year a priest named Romanus arrived in Rouen and promised to deal with La Gargouille if the residents agreed to build a church in town and join his congregation. Legend states Romanus subdued the dragon with the sign of the cross and got his craft on by restraining the dragon with a leash made from his own robe before leading him back to town. Darlene Trew Crist also mentions this French tale in her monograph, American Gargoyles: Spirits in Stone , but she explores a second legend about the origin of the gargoyle in Celtic history.
This practice eventually evolved and expanded to hanging the heads like trophies directly on the exteriors of buildings in their villages Once absorbed, it was only a matter of time before the gargoyle was fully seized by the Church and adopted the role of protective ward. Some gargoyles, however, like the ones sitting atop Notre Dame de Paris take their roles as protector a step further than most and apparently keep an eye out for people drowning in the Seine But the line between good and evil is a fine one indeed and not everyone viewed these stone carvings, which feature an array of animals, humans and fantastical beasts, as grotesque guardian angels.
Regardless of their symbolic meaning, we need to remember that gargoyles were created during a period of mass illiteracy in Western Europe.
They were both a form of entertainment and responsible for shaping the narrative of public behaviour. The little free time they had was filled with religious plays or supervised walks. Students who managed to get lodgings with professors or relatives were looked upon with envy. Their landlords needed the rent, so they turned a blind eye when their charges went dancing or drinking. In common with many other women of her time, she was monitored with suspicion by her nosy neighbours and denounced as a witch.
She earned herself a few pennies by taking in student lodgers.
One of the lodgers was very poor, so he ran errands for her instead of paying rent. Catharina met up regularly with her women friends.
One of her neighbours spotted one of these friends entering and leaving the house at 8 or 9 at night, when honest women should apparently have been at home — and to cap it all, the women were seen dancing. She was beheaded and burned. Until the 17 th century, pharmacies used to sell herbal remedies and rare objects. A price list from the year lists such delights as roasted worms, human flesh and wild cat fat. Understandably not many people wanted to hang out with this guy.
The women were not very popular. They had to wear special bonnets so that they could be recognized everywhere they went. If they got out of hand they were punished by being made to pull carts of manure or having their plaits or even their ears cut off. It was a municipal hospital which cared for all sick people, and its history can be traced back to the 13 th century.
Even old people who could afford the fees were given a place here for their last days. The complex included a cemetery, chapel and prison. No distinction was made between rich and poor patients, but eventually space ran out and a separate hospital was founded for poor people. Man besorgt, dass er darin erwarme.
We are making sure he warms up there. It started off as a cemetery containing layers of human remains from plague times. In the cemetery was moved because of overcrowding, to a site to the north of the city Alter Friedhof. Some small shops were built into the cemetery wall and there was a dwelling for a night watchman.
A couple of years later the ruins of the buildings were used as a back drop for a passion play, providing an impressive — and inexpensive — setting. Eventually these medieval buildings were rebuilt as near-identical replicas. The minster, acclaimed as a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, was built between and Its sandstone spire alone is 46 metres high, and its filigree openwork gives a delicate lacework effect.
You can actually see the sky through the tower.
Sometimes part of the spire is obscured because of renovation work. The minster was financed from the proceeds from a silver mine in the Schauinsland mountain near Freiburg. The story goes that when the cathedral was finished, the families who had profited from the mine were keen to rediscover it. Despite their best efforts all they could find was an underground cave. The oldest gargoyles have been found in present-day Egypt from the Fifth Dynasty, c.
The functional and practical waterspout has also been found in ancient Greece and ancient Rome. Gargoyles in the shape of dragons are found in China's Forbidden City and imperial tombs from the Ming Dynasty. Waterspouts became more ornate toward the end of the Romanesque architectural period.
The Middle Ages was a time of Christian pilgrimage, often with the pillaging of sacred relics. Sometimes cathedrals were specially built to house and protect sacred bones, such as those of Saint-Lazare d'Autun in France. The mythical Greek chimera became a popular figure stonemasons used as gargoyles. The sculpting of the functional gargoyle became especially popular in the Gothic building boom across Europe, so gargoyles have come to be associated with this architectural era. French architect Viollet-le-Duc extended this association to Gothic-Revival as he creatively restored the Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral with many of the famous gargoyles and "grotesques" seen today.
These more modern gargoyles are made of metal and look like heads of American eagles—protrusions that have been called "hood ornaments" by some enthusiasts.
By the 20th century, "gargoyle" functionality as waterspouts had evaporated even if the tradition lived on. Between and , Walt Disney Television Animation produced a well-received cartoon called Gargoyles. The main character, Goliath, says things like "It is the gargoyle way," but don't let him fool you.