The A to Z Challenge – G for Gargoyles & Grotesques

The A to Z Challenge is on! Hello and welcome to my Main blog. My name is Rose Anderson and I’m a romance novelist. Join me and more than 2279 bloggers and authors as we blog the alphabet throughout the month of April. My daily posts will be mostly history with some science topics here and there. I’ve chosen subjects that tickle my fancy and I hope you will find them interesting too.

Keep the topic rolling! If you have comments or questions, add them at the end of the post. I may not know the answer off the top of my head but I love research and would enjoy discussing my topics further. Comments can be made just below my bio in the tag section.

*FREE* If you enjoy reading scorching romances with unique twists and characters full of personality and depth, scroll down for a free chapter sampler. Find my book trailers in the tabs above.


Today’s Calliope’s Writing Tablet post is brought to you by the letter G ~
G for Gargoyles & Grotesques

Mention gargoyles and I think of those stoic winged sentinels on the lofty centuries-old architectural corners in Notre Dame cathedral. Why? Got me. Either Victor Hugo planted the image in my head with his novel Hunchback of Notre Dame, or it’s the fact there are 5000 Gargoyles and Grotesques all over the cathedral. 5000! Along with the architectural marvel of flying buttresses, I find that number pretty astounding. I believe most of the grotesques are found in the gallery. The gargoyles are mostly on the façade waiting for rain and quietly monitoring the comings and goings of Paris.

gargoylesThe name Gargoyle comes from gurgulio; Latin for gurgle. I assume the rainwater funneling through them off the roof makes a sound. Such water spouts were a regular feature in Ancient Greece and Rome and later in the Gothic constructions found throughout Europe. Some pour rainwater from their mouths, others from their backsides. But then they are demons and monsters. The idea was the gargoyles jutted far from the roof to prevent water from eroding the structure foundations. The more gargoyles, the less damage to any one section.

As for the symbolism on the necessary drainage, long-necked griffins, demons, and monsters are popular themes. I’ve read two lines of thought regarding the sculptures — they remind the populace that demons abound or they keep genuine evil away from the churches. Perhaps it was simply artistic license. Whichever they were, they were essential to the ostentatious glory that epitomized medieval church construction. Such outward abundance was necessary. Before Gutenberg’s press put knowledge into the hands of the common man, elaborate façades visually told stories of heaven and hell to the ignorant. To the Renaissance Humanists, such symbolism represented the world turned upside down, where monsters didn’t guard the church, they guarded the world from the monsters within. (Remember, the Renaissance had the Inquisition. And that’s a post for another day.) Gargoyles gained a new popularity in the Victorian Gothic Revival of the mid-1800’s.

If it isn’t a water spout, it’s not a gargoyle, it’s a grotesque.

People often confuse gargoyles with grotesques-gargoyles-10grotesques. Those twisted faces, beasts, and Chimeras that are either decorative (that does sound rather odd) or they serve a purpose such as a capital (column topper) or corbel (weight support). Even the jovial faces of Bacchus and the lovely caryatids, those goddess-like women supporting the roof line, fall under the grotesque category.

The more you study gargoyles and grotesques, the clearer their themes become.  In fact, you’ll see the remnants of European paganism. One of the happier pagan figures is the overtly sexual Sheelagh-na-Gig.

Here’s an interactive gargoyle map in Washington DC National Cathedral. There’s actually a Darth Vader grotesque up on the roof somewhere. The USA has other sites featuring these interesting sculptures. Look to older buildings and you might see the grotesques. Given their downspout task, the gargoyles might be harder to find. This list will get you started in the USA:

University of Chicago & the Tribune Tower
New York’s Woolworth Building & Chrysler Building
The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Arizona
Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York
San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral
University of Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh’s Calvary United Methodist,
& First Presbyterian Churches

Princeton University in New Jersey
The First Baptist Church, Lauderdale Street in Selma, Alabama

Lots of gargoyle info here
Gargoyles of Europe

Tomorrow ~ letter H!


Authors_in_Bloom-300x250**NEW THIS WEEK** on my satellite blog!

It’s Day2 in the Authors in Bloom event. It highlights those things authors do outside the fiction. We garden, we cook, we craft etc. One of the more unusual things my husband and I have done was lead wild foods programs for Chicago’s Field Museum. For this event I’ll be sharing my recipes. Do stop by. You may have delicious ingredients waiting in your backyard!


It’s the final stretch in the 100 Things Blogging Challenge!
For nearly 100 days, 002xbqkt
I’ve posted from my chosen topic: Words on the Verge of Extinction. There are 5 entries to come.

Here’s one for today:

Chermadic (adjective 1842)
~of a heavy weight used as a projectile


4 Us iconSee what’s happening on the RB4U blog today

Our April contest is on. We’ll have 3 winners and a lot of prizes to split among them.


Love Waits in Unexpected Places –
Scorching Samplings of Unusual Love Stories
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About ~RoseAnderson

Rose Anderson is an award-winning author and dilettante who loves great conversation and delights in discovering interesting things to weave into stories. Rose also writes under the pen name Madeline Archer.
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9 Responses to The A to Z Challenge – G for Gargoyles & Grotesques

  1. rosgemmell says:

    They are such fascinating sculptures in all the great churches and cathedrals over here!

  2. Ray G says:

    Another fascinating blog. I know I’ve seen them in my travels, I just don’t recall where. I looked up the Sheelagh-na-Gig and checked out Bing images. They range from stylistic to truly overtly sexy. To think how prudish we are in America in this day and age.
    I am wondering if our puritan attitudes are a rebellion against the art in Catholic Europe (Da Vinci, etc.) not only in sexuality, but in ostentatiousness.

    • Thanks, Ray. I think our attitudes stem from those early colonists seeking freedom of religious persecution. How do you control a stallion? How do you mellow a male dog or cat? I think the mind behind it all is along those lines. Subvert basic human need and call it a sin. What a waste.

  3. Sheelagh-na-Gig features (small role) in the novel I’m presently writing.

    Something about gargoyles has always piqued my interest. They seem like Foo dogs, deflecting attacking energies and protecting what lies within.

    Thanks, Rose!

    • lol Ooh a story with a Sheelagh. I’ll look forward to it! 🙂

      I’ve always loved architectural features. I’d have been a happy Victorian with every inch of my life filled with curiosities and carvings. I admit I find it strange Darth Vader sits on the National Cathedral though.

  4. skmarshall2014 says:

    I have long liked gargoyles in architecture. Many buildings have them even some newer ones. Thanks, Rose, for another informative blog.

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