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Related: gothic architecture - grotesque - Middle Ages

Gargoyle decorating the Cathedral de Notre Dame (1163- 1345) in Paris, France.


Gargoyles, or gurgoyles (from the French gargouille, originally the throat or gullet, cf. Latin gurgulio, gula, and similar words derived from root gar, to swallow, the word representing the gurgling sound of water; Ital. doccia di grande; Ger. Ausguss), in architecture, the carved termination to a spout which conveys away the water from the gutters. Gargoyles are mostly grotesque figures. The term is applied more especially to medieval work, but throughout all ages some means of throwing the water off the roofs, when not conveyed in gutters, has been adopted, and in Egypt there are gargoyles to eject the water used in the washing of the sacred vessels which would seem to have been done on the flat roofs of the temples. In Greek temples, the water from the roof passed through the mouths of lions whose heads were carved or modelled in the marble or terra cotta cymatium of the cornice. At Pompeii large numbers of terra cotta gargoyles have been found which were modelled in the shape of various animals. Gargoyle-like are popular sales items and have featured in several fantasy novels, such as the Discworld series. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gargoyle [2004]

Gargoyles and gothic architecture

During the Renaissance period in Europe, medieval architecture had been retrospectively labeled "gothic", considered barbaric in contrast to trends in architecture during the Renaissance. Gothic medieval architecture often had dark and intimidating aspects, with depictions of gargoyles and other demon-like forms. By the 1700s, people became fascinated with medieval gothic ruins (even building fake ruins), and they became a perfect setting for horror fiction. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goth#Etymology:_ancient_Goths_and_medieval_architecture [Feb 2005]

Holy Terrors: Gargoyles on Medieval Buildings (1997) - Janetta Rebold Benton

Holy Terrors: Gargoyles on Medieval Buildings (1997) - Janetta Rebold Benton [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Almost every tourist who has ever climbed to the top of the North Tower of Notre-Dame de Paris has taken a photo of his or her companion leaning over the balustrade between two gargoyles (technically 'chimeras'), and surveying the streets below. It's the ultimate gargoyle photo-op. I'm surprised this author was able to photograph the gargoyles without a tourist leaning between them. I was only slightly disappointed to learn from this book that much of the stonework on this tower is nineteenth-century restoration by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, "started in 1845 to repair damage done to the cathedral during the Revolution." However, he did attempt to use molds of the originals. [...] --E. A. Lovitt via Amazon.com

Mooning gargoyle

Mooning gargoyle

Gargoyle mooning another building, Frieburg, GER, photographed by macg.stiegler on 4/9/2004, image sourced here.

Mooning is the act of displaying one's bare buttocks by lowering the backside of one's trousers and underpants without exposing the front side, bending forward. It is generally considered a rude and disrespectful or insulting act, but is much less offensive than flashing. It is often performed as a form of protest or simply for fun. Mooning is sometimes performed from a moving vehicle. The act of placing one's buttocks against glass while mooning (for example, a car window) is known as a pressed ham.

Formerly, mooning was slang for wandering idly and romantically pining.

Mooning in popular culture
The film Braveheart contains a scene in which over a thousand Scottish warriors mooned the English forces. Mooning scenes were included in the 1950s-set films American Graffiti and Grease. At the 2004 MTV Movie Awards, Eminem and his band mooned the crowd. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mooning [Mar 2005]

see also: indecent exposure

see also http://www.stratis.demon.co.uk/gargoyles [Mar 2005]

From the site above:
Gargoyles in the strict plumbing sense of the word (see Etymology) have been around since the time of the Ancient Greeks or before. They became very popular on architecture in Medieval times, with a resurgence in the Victorian era, and to some extent more recently. Other periods have none or few carved ones. Saxon churches (a little before Medieval times) that I've seen usually have troughs but whether these are original or later additions is hard to say. Large buildings of the Elizabethan period (a little after Medieval times) did use channels or troughs but I've never seen or heard of carved ones.

Their first usage in the last thousand years or more seems 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. Strong evidence for this purely plumbing interpretation is that initially most were made of wood, some made of the more expensive stone, and were generally undecorated.

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 of these (grotesque in the sense of being extravagantly formed, bizarre, ludicrous, absurd, fantastic and also in the sense of being ugly and frightening). Often these carvings are so imaginative as to bear little or no resemblance to any conventional creature and are the products of fertile imaginations and skilled hands.

They are common on 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. Presumably, as today, the average wage did not run as far as paying for ornate stone guttering for your own humble dwelling.

It seems that 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 (though these are more correctly called "grotesques" and "chimeras", of which gargoyles are only one kind). --http://www.stratis.demon.co.uk/gargoyles/gg-ety-hist-myth.htm#gargoyle_architectural_history [Mar 2005]

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