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Fascinating gargoyles and grotesques around the world

Marija Georgievska

The gargoyles and grotesques are fascinating architectural sculptures that can be found on many buildings. The difference between the gargoyle and grotesque is that the gargoyle is grotesque but it has an additional purpose, and the grotesque is used to decorate the exterior of the building.

The gargoyles are made to convey rainwater away from the sides of the buildings and most commonly are situated on the roofs.

Gargoyles on Notre Dame in Paris Photo Credit

Gargoyles on Notre Dame in Paris Photo Credit

The term “gargoyle” derives from the French word “gargouille” which means “a throat.” There is a through cut in the back of the gargoyles which determines how far the water will be thrown from the building’s wall. A grotesque or a chimera is a mythical figure that is used for decoration. For centuries, both, the grotesques and gargoyles were used as protective figures which chase away evil spirits. They are mostly guardians of churches and cathedrals.

1. The gargoyles and grotesques of Notre Dame

One of the famous grotesques at Notre Dame in Paris  Photo Credit

One of the famous grotesques at Notre Dame in Paris  Photo Credit

The most famous examples of gargoyles are those on the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. They were in use until the 16th century, when drain pipes were installed in the building. Today, these magnificent statues are just ornamental. The best-known grotesques are those which peer over the town, at the top of the cathedral, situated in front of the most famous bell of the building.

2. The dragon-headed gargoyles from Estonia

Dragon-headed gargoyle of the Tallinn Town Hall, Estonia Photo Credit

Dragon-headed gargoyle of the Tallinn Town Hall, Estonia Photo Credit

In Estonia, the most amazing gargoyles can be seen on the main façade of the Tallinn Town Hall,  the oldest surviving hall in Northern Europe.

There are two unique and identical dragon-headed gargoyles on the main façade which have a golden crown and large white teeth. They were designed and made by the coppersmith Daniel Pöppel.

3. The stone mason on the Bern Minster Cathedral

Gargoyle at Bern Minster, Switzerland Photo Credit

Gargoyle at Bern Minster, Switzerland Photo Credit

On the tallest cathedral in Switzerland, Bern Minster, there is a unique gargoyle which is a stone mason bent in despair, holding a hammer. It was designed by Erhart Kung and Burkhart Engelberg who decorated the whole façade of the building. This gargoyle can be seen on the front façade of the cathedral.

4. The gargoyles of the Milan cathedral

Gargoyle at the roof of Milan Cathedral  Photo Credit

Gargoyle at the roof of Milan Cathedral  Photo Credit

On one of the most famous complexes in the world, the Milan cathedral, there are 3, 400 statues, of which 135 are gargoyles.

These gargoyles are one of the most amazing stone statues that in 2012 were put up for adoption. Patrons were asked to adopt these unique statues because the Duomo management wanted to preserve them. The names of the donors who will help with 100, 000 euros or more, will be engraved under the gargoyles.

5. Il Boccalone, one of the scariest gargoyles of the Florence Cathedral

The “Il Boccalone” on the Florence Cathedral, Italy Photo Credit

The “Il Boccalone” on the Florence Cathedral, Italy Photo Credit

One of the scariest and unique gargoyles is called “Il Boccalone” and can be seen on the façade of the Florence cathedral. The façade of the cathedral was designed by Emilio De Fabris in the Gothic Revival style in the 19th century. This statue is one of the most photographed gargoyles because of its creepy face. It is a human head with screaming expression, and it has the most ominous gaze.

6. The monk on the Chateau de Blain in France

Another creepy and unique gargoyle can be seen on the Chateau de Blain in France. It is a statue of a monk which sits in a cramped position on the façade, holding a bell in his arms.

The monk gargoyles were also made for protection, chasing away evil spirits. They were made like monks because people felt safe and they considered them as sacred.

The Monk gargoyle from the Château de Blain, France Photo Credit

The Monk gargoyle from the Château de Blain, France Photo Credit

7. The fantastic animal gargoyles on the tower of the Holy Cross Church in Great Ponton, England

In England, in the Great Ponton village, on the tower of the Holy Cross Church, there are gargoyles in fantastic animal shapes. Originally, the church was medieval, but in 1519 it was reconstructed by the wool merchant Anthony Ellys.

He added a tower which is richly decorated, and these fantastic animal gargoyles can be seen at the top, which is the most decorated part of the whole church.

 

Gargoyle on the tower of Holy Cross Church, Great Ponton, Lincolnshire, England  Photo Credit

Gargoyle on the tower of Holy Cross Church, Great Ponton, Lincolnshire, England  Photo Credit

 

8. The gargoyles of Cologne Cathedral

Gargoyles at Cologne Cathedral, Germany Photo Credit

Gargoyles at Cologne Cathedral, Germany Photo Credit

The Cologne Cathedral in Germany has over 125 gargoyles which are pretty originative.

A lot of different shapes of gargoyles can be seen on the cathedral such as animals, chimeras, and devils. The whole exterior of the building is dotted with these shapes which make it a little morbid.

9. The Darth Vader grotesque in the Washington National Cathedral

Dart Vader grotesque on the Washington National Cathedral

Dart Vader grotesque on the Washington National Cathedral

Sculpted by Jan Hall Carpenter and stone carved by Patrick J. Plunkett, the Darth Vader grotesque is one of the most famous statues which can be seen on the facade of the Washington National Cathedral.

If people wish to see this grotesque, they need binoculars because it is very small. It was made in the 1980s when the northwest tower of the Cathedral was constructed.

10. The most unusual grotesque is the astronaut carved on the New Cathedral in Salamanca, Spain

The astronaut grotesque Photo Credit

The astronaut grotesque Photo Credit

Among the many grotesques on the façade of The New Cathedral in Salamanca, Spain, there is one as the most unusual of them all.

Read another story from us: The New Cathedral of Salamanca: A 16th-century cathedral carved with contemporary symbols

It is a carving of an astronaut which was added to the cathedral when it was restored in 1992. The astronaut is there because one of the artisans who worked on the restoration decided to carve unusual and strange figures into the stone.