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This research paper is based on a combination of architecture and sculpture, precisely the gargoyle. The inspiration for topic was grasped from a past production paper question which requested that one create a gargoyle spout inspired by a Caribbean cultural aspect. This question deeply intrigued me, providing themes for both a sculpture piece and my research paper.
This paper is seeks to present the transition from which the gargoyle progressed from an architectural figure of meaning and significance into sculpture with more decorative attributes which lost some of its initial importance.
History of the Gargoyle 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. The word gargoyle was said to be derived from the French word, gargouille, meaning throat or pipe. There are multiple myths and legends to which the origin of the gargoyle is associated.
It is believed that fossils of dinosaurs may have spurred the legend of the gargoyle, much the same as the dragon and the griffin.
One of the less mundane but more interesting explanations included the French legend concerning St. Romain, or Romanus. He was the former chancellor of Clotaire II, a Merovingian king. It was said that he saved the country from a monster named Gargouille, or Goji, whose appearance was said to be so terrifying, it scared evil spirits away. This was why some relate the gargoyle to protection.
After the monster’s defeat, the body was burned, but the head and shoulders were immune to the flames, presumably because it had been tempered by his fiery breath.
The head was mounted on the walls of a newly built church to ward off evil spirits. Architectural Significance The dictionary defines a gargoyle as a spout, in the form of a grotesque animal or human figure that projects from the gutter of a building and is designed to cast rainwater clear of the building. Usually the water comes out of the mouth. In architecture a waterspout on a building is a gargoyle.
Preventing rainwater from running down masonry walls is important because running water erodes the mortar between the stone blocks. Architects often used multiple gargoyles on buildings to divide the flow of rainwater off the roof to minimize the potential damage from a rainstorm. A trough is cut in the back of the gargoyle and rainwater typically exits through the open mouth. Gargoyles are usually an elongated fantastic animal because the length of the gargoyle determines how far water is thrown from the wall. When Gothic flying buttresses were used, aqueducts were sometimes cut into the buttress to divert water over the aisle walls.
A sculpture on a building Figure [ 1 ]- Gargoyle guttering that doesn’t have a spout is called a grotesque or a chimera if it has elements of more than one animal. Some gargoyles are undecorated but many are zoomorphic or anthropomorphic – often very imaginative and/or grotesque. This has led to the term ‘gargoyle’ being applied more widely to any grotesque carving in medieval buildings. Gargoyles solely for plumbing uses have been around since the time of the Ancient Greeks, or maybe even before. They became very popular on architecture in medieval times, with resurgence in the Victorian era, and to some extent more recently.
Their first usage in the last thousand years or more seemed to have been in the early 1200’s as channels or tubes to shed rainwater from buildings, to keep the rainwater off the buildings themselves and away from the foundations. Initially most were made of wood, some made of the more expensive stone, and were generally undecorated, which strongly suggested they were solely for pluming purposes on buildings. As time progressed, more stone ones appeared as did lining some with lead and decoration in the form of carvings of people or animals or grotesque representations.
Such gargoyles are common the more expensive buildings from medieval times, particularly cathedrals and churches, and particularly France, and particularly the Gothic style. A few plain ones survive on non-religious buildings like the odd castle but rarely compared with religious buildings. Figure [ 2 ]- Notre Dame in Paris, France (church) In contemporary architecture this increasingly ornate carving extended to non-functional architectural features resembling them, so that “gargoyles” appear on the sides of towers and walls, and to stretch the term even further, inside the buildings as grotesques and chimeras.
Decorative and non-functional relevance A grotesque figure is a sculpture that does not work as a waterspout and serves only an ornamental or artistic function. These are also usually called gargoyles in layman’s terminology, although the field of architecture usually preserves the Figure [ 3 ]- Grotesques distinction between gargoyles (functional waterspouts) and non-waterspout grotesques. Figure [ 4 ]- Chimera Grotesques are often confused with gargoyles, but the distinction is that gargoyles are figures that contain a water spout through the mouth, while grotesques do not.
This type of sculpture is also called a chimera. Used correctly, the term gargoyle refers to mostly eerie figures carved specifically as terminations to spouts which convey water away from the sides of buildings. In the Middle Ages, the term babewyn was used to refer to both gargoyles and grotesques. This word is derived from the Italian word babuino, which means “baboon. ” Chimeras are creatures that are mixes of different types of animal body parts to create a new creature. Chimeras often served as a warning to people who underestimated the devil.
In contemporary society and architecture there is a greater presence of chimeras and grotesques because in most instances gargoyles are no longer used as spouts. In addition, over the last few years, gargoyles have become cartoon characters, a cult “animal” in Neo-Gothic circles, particularly popular in internet fantasy literature where they appear more naughty than truly evil. None of these have much to do with plumbing, but the meaning of words do change over the years, and “gargoyle” now seems to mean to many people to be any ugly or grotesque creature particularly if it lives on buildings or rocks.
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