Where do gargoyles come from? | History and meaning –

Gargoyles are one of the symbols of many constructions in the Middle Ages and have a somewhat grotesque and terrifying appearance, as well as being involved in a certain legend and mythology.

Many times, while traveling in countries like France, we can realize that many of the Gothic buildings have in their highest part the representation of winged creatures which are called gargoyles, but which apparently have a mythological origin beyond their architectural function.

The word gargoyle derives from the Latin, gurgulio, gargula. Its root is “gar” which refers to “swallow”. In Italy it is Doccione, in Germany it is Wasserspeier and in Holland Waterspuwer, all of them refer to a water vomiter, spits water, etc. For this reason, it is believed that its etymology indicates that it was named based on its architectural utility, which refers to hell as draining the roofs of cathedrals.

The origin of these gargoyles comes from the Middle Ages, when hell was one of the issues that most concerned society and they believed in all kinds of demons and beasts that tormented human beings. The first gargoyles that were known were named “griffins” which referred to fantastic beings in the form of animals or half-humans.

Gargoyles in mythology

Gargoyles, understood as beings belonging to mythology, were born as a result of a legend from the beginning of the 7th century in which the dragon gargoylewho lived near Signperiodically devastated the region.

gargoyle, was described as a being with a long, reptilian neck, a thin snout with powerful jaws, strong eyebrows and membranous wings. He was characterized by his bad manners: he swallowed ships, destroyed everything that stood in the way of his fierce breath and spit out too much water, so much so that it caused all kinds of floods.

It was then that, Romanusa Christian priest, overpowered the beast with the sign of the cross and led it to Rouen where he cut off his head and placed it on top of the town hall.

gargoyles in architecture

It was from the Middle Ages and with the rise of Gothic art when artists and architects began to place the representation of these beings in their buildings, with the head and wings of a dragon and an almost human body, and whose function was to expel rainwater from the roofs of these buildings, to thereby act as a drain.

They were mainly placed in churches, and that is why they are still preserved in places that are as emblematic as the cathedral of Notre Dame, in France.

Its name would be due to the sound produced by water, similar to that of a liquid through a tube (and which is known as gargoyle).

As for the reason why gargoyles were used in cathedrals, they have several reasons. It is said that they could represent the demons turned to stone who fled from the church and, on the other hand, there was also talk that the gargoyles they protected the parishioners that were found inside churches, since their hideous appearance was believed to ward off evil spirits.

Based on this second interpretation of the gargoyles there are also the chimeras. They do not have the same forms but they are terrifying beings that would fulfill the same function.

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