Fearsome, Functional Gargoyles, Then and Now

By | November 30, 2018

test article image
A gargoyle statue is seen among a property smoldering rubble in Paradise, north of Sacramento, California on November 09, 2018. Source: (ABC10.com)

High atop old European churches and cathedrals, you will find the terrifying looking gargoyles. Carved of stones and resembling devilish monsters, these strange statues have been frightening people since medieval days. To our modern minds, gargoyles are puzzling. Why would people hundreds of years ago think it was a good idea to mount scary, grotesque demons on the roofs of their churches? It turns out the gargoyles have a few important functions, but through the years, they have also gained a reputation as a symbol of medieval fear that has earned them a place in today’s pop culture. Let us take a terrifying look at fearsome gargoyles, then and now. 

test article image
Gargoyle on St. Colman's Cathedral, Cobh, Ireland. Source: (tripsavvy.com)

Then…a Medieval Waterspout

Around the 13th century, European architects had a problem to solve. How do they funnel rainwater off the tops of church roofs without running the water down the side of the stone or brick? Too much water pouring down the side of the building could weaken and damage the stone structure. What was needed was a way for the water to flow in a spout away from the exterior. Craftsmen carved large, imposing-looking stone demons with their neck and heads leaning over the edges of the buildings. The rainwater would collect and pour out of the creatures’ mouths onto the street below.