From Wikipedia:

So, Wikipedia says that “a gargoyle is a carved stone grotesque with a spout designed to convey water from a roof and away from the side of a building.”

Another website says that a true gargoyle serves as a drain, and the other creatures that we normally call gargoyles are properly named “Grotesque’s”.

I’ve never heard that term, and I’ll just keep improperly calling them gargoyles.  I find them fascinating.

Another website, has an article titled “Gargoyle Etymology and History” and I like their explanations better!  Here are the writers comments:

  • rainwater plumbing (this is certain but does not explain why so many are carved creatures, nor the various forms)
  • warding off evil – a “kiss my ass” keep away deterrent to demons
  • warding off evil – a “don’t bother, we’re here already doing demonic stuff” deterrent to demons
  • a reminder to parishioners of the perils of evil – bad guys are marginalised to the outside of the church (but why so high up and hard to see?)
  • as pagan symbols to encourage believers in pre-Christian ways to come to church (make them feel welcomed or at home, as it were)
  • decoration (but why so ugly? why so hard to see)
  • a juxtaposition or balance of ugliness against the beauty inside the building (a very medieval concept which we find hard to understand these days)
  • insurance policy against building collapse, related to warding off evil (this one’s obscure and I think it says more out modern interpretation of the medieval mind than architectural principles)

My Friendly Gargoyle, 5x7 Rose Sepia Photo

For some of the more interesting ones (mooning or nose picking or caricatures), they may possibly be:

  • symbolic object lessons on the perils of unconventionality
  • carved out of mischief (e.g. there are defecating gargoyles, these are generally difficult to see, being high up or in obscure parts of the building)
  • as retribution for not paying the stone carver (see Freiburg defecator)
  • fun (who knows what the medieval sense of humour was? see also a modern nose pickerfrom Ely Cathedral
  • caricatures of people maybe local clergy, which may be mischief or fun or possibly honour.

Hamster thoughts – why are there no hamster gargoyles? Just wondering . . .