Account Options Sign in. Mounted by a Monster: When a young woman applies a restorative chemical compound to a French cathedral gargoyle, the last thing she expects is for the gargoyle to break free from its stony imprisonment. The young woman is the first thing the beast sees, and after nine hundred years the gargoyle has only one driving instinct.
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K - English - Humor - Chapters: These remnants were mounted on the town wall and became the model for gargoyles for centuries to come. Only a few gargoyles fulfil that function today. With some examples it is not even sure if water ever issued from the gargoyle's mouth. Another important function may have been the religious education of the mainly illiterate populace. Benton 21 Although this is the opinion of most experts, it stands in contrast to the appearance of gargoyles on secular buildings and private homes, and high on church buildings, where they can barely be seen with the naked eye, and that not two of them were alike.
The absence of gargoyles shaped in forms of the standard repertoire of medieval imagery also speaks against this theory. This may be caused by two reasons: Although this could be done by simple, uncarved stone cylinders protruding from the wall, gargoyles were used because they seemed, in connection with some of their other functions, the appropriate device. Gargoyles in heights not to be seen with the naked eye can be explained by the general concept of Gothic ecclesiastical buildings: There is no gargoyle that is like another, because it seems that the stone masons had free choice of what in special to depict.
Another function of the gargoyles could have been to ward off evil spirits and protect the valuables within the church, continuing the Greek tradition. The idea was that demons were either frightened away or assumed that other evil creatures were already there and would avoid attacking the building. That could explain why gargoyles are rarely pretty, but horrible, grotesque in their appearance. They would have been a "sort of sacred scarecrow to frighten the devil away" Benton In connection with their function as an educational device they could have been symbols of the evil forces such as temptations and sins "lurking outside the sanctuary of the church; upon passing the gargoyles, the visitor's safety was assured within the church".
Benton 24 Grotesque creatures appearing in the church would then be evil monstrosities having redeemed themselves by labouring in the service of the church as waterspouts, who were rewarded by being permitted entry to the church.
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Francis Bligh Bond, an English architectural historian, supposed the meaning of the gargoyles as being the symbolic overcome and conversion to good even of the most monstrous forms of evil by the Church. In any case, gargoyles were used as symbols, and could be interpreted in many ways. They could have represented the souls condemned for their sins, whom was therefore the entrance to church forbidden.
The price for sinning, although they were spared from eternal damnation, would be to be turned to stone. That would also correspond with the theory of gargoyles being for education, as they then would have been reminders of what could happen to sinners.
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Benton 25 Another theory, whose specific origin can no longer be identified, has it that gargoyles are fashioned after local demons and guardian spirits, continuing pagan themes. Online Source 1 They are also said to be an expression of man's subconscious fears. Online 8 The explanation for the meaning of gargoyles can perhaps only be a combination of many of those theories. The motives chosen to be depicted as gargoyles and grotesques were manifold and had several origins. Some of them were biblical themes, some of them had an pagan origin, some came from Greek, Egyptian and oriental mythology.
Vaux 9 A theme of pagan origin often to be found in and around churches is the Green Man the name "Green Man" was coined in by Lady Raglan. Depicted is a man's head being surrounded by foliage, sometimes even with foliage sprouting from its mouth, nose, eyes, or ears. It can also be a face entirely composed of leaves. In churches and cathedrals the motive appeared the first time in the eleventh century. It can be traced back to Roman times.
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It was, in pre-Christian times, a symbol of fertility and rebirth, representing irrepressible life, with the forces of nature merging with humanity. In medieval times he could have represented lust or another of the seven deadly sins, but he may also have protective functions.
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After a battle the heads of the fallen were cut off and raised on poles around the settlement to ward off evil spirits. Sometimes even leaves were wrapped around the heads in honour of some local deity or tree spirit. Vaux 25 Old English folk stories had their own Green Man, the Corn or Barley God, who was said to be resurrected after death, in the shape of a tree growing out of his head Online Source 4.
He had a green head, a green face, green armour, and even a green horse. When he was decapitated, he continued to live, symbolically personifying the regeneration powers of the plant realm Online Source 3. The Green Man was also part of the May Day processions which celebrated the spring, as a dancer, covered all over with leaves and wearing a mask, dancing ahead of the May Queen.
Benton 77 The Green Man vanished with the 'Old Faith' after the Reformation, but reappeared, with changed meaning, in the seventeenth and eighteenth century. Finally, the Victorians used the image as street decoration.
He was the Lord of all animals, later the church adopted him as the visual form of the devil. He may have his origin in the horned gods of Ancient Greece or the Greek satyr. Vaux 32, Kelten 89 The motive of a horse with a rider had its origin in Nordic mythology, Rome and Persia about B. Horus, the god of light, and often depicted as a falcon, rides out to destroy a dragon-crocodile. This story can, more simplified, also be found in Christian mythology as the story of St George and St Michael slaying the dragon as a symbol of the conflict between good and evil.
Vaux 35 Joculatores, jugglers, perhaps with animal masks, personified demonic obsession and symbolized, that unbridled bodies are worth only damnation.
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Kunst der Romanik An explanation for the adoption of so many pagan themes can be found in Pope Gregory's instructions to St Augustine, regarding the conversion of the pagan peoples to Christianity: So the people will have no need to change their place of concourse, and, where of old they were wont to sacrifice cattle to demons, thither let them continue to resort on the say of the sint to where the church is dedicated, and slay their beasts, no longer as a sacrifice but for social meal in honor of Him whom they now worship.
Would those images have been objectionable to the Church, they would have been removed long ago. Benton 23 Attempts to explain the shapes of gargoyles to be derived from the skeletal remains of dinosaurs or from stellar constellations seem to be of limited plausibility. For most gargoyles are grotesque, a further division into grotesque gargoyles and non-grotesque ones does not seem useful.
Animal gargoyles were depicted in varying degrees of fidelity to nature. Entire animals were likely to be posed as if holding by its claws onto the building Benton They seem to stretch as if trying to throw their water as far as possible from the building. Motives were not only animals the stone mason knew by sight, but also exotic animals like for example lions and monkeys, and fantastic animals like the dragon.
Their knowledge about those animals they received from the so called 'Bestiaries' like the 'Physiologus', or from travelling menageries. Vaux 9 Bestiaries were illustrated books of animal lore, which described the habits of animals, both fantastical and real, and gave them a moral meaning, equalizing their features and behaviour with a Christian way of live. The popularity of the Bestiaries coincided chronologically and geographically with that of the gargoyles.
The symbolism given to animals in those Bestiaries were also attached to the gargoyle animals. So certain animals were used more frequently than others for having special positive or negative meanings. Dogs and lions were most frequently used. In the Bestiaries they were described as being wise, and had high ability to reason. So they symbolized the priest who cares for his congregation and drives away the devil. But they were not only vehicles for positive meanings: Vaux 21 Lions and leonine beasts - "Kings of Beasts" and the most often depicted animals in medieval art - were in ancient times used as a symbol for Sumerian, Assyrian and Persian kings, later this tradition was continued in representing Christ, the king of the tribe of Judah.
The lion was said to erase its tracks with its tail, which was either equated to Christ's ability to elude the devil or to the image of the Saviour living unrecognized on earth.
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Further the lioness gave birth to dead cubs, which were resurrected three days later by their father. When a lion was ill, the only certain cure for him was to kill and eat a monkey, which was a symbol of the evil forces. This was taken as a further symbol for the overcome of the evil by the good. It was also said never to close his eyes even if asleep, being an emblem of vigilance.
So it was placed on tombs and beside the entryways to churches.
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Besides lion heads were used as door knockers. But Vaux states that, if shown supporting the pillars of a door, the lion used to be evil, as well as if it was a holding a lamb or was a bicorporate lion of pagan or at least pre-Christian origin. In any case, the lion was predominantly associated with vigilant, valiant, regal, and powerful behaviour. Benton 86 Other animals with a symbolic meaning were the ram, equated to the priests leading their flock, further the fox - an animal of deceit, cunning, craftiness, which sometimes also symbolized death.
The goat was said to be omniscient, but male goats were also said to be chronically lustful. Monkeys were generally evil, or a symbol for the fall of mankind. Birds, with their aerial habitat a natural choice for gargoyles, have a unclear meaning, if there is one. As it can be seen with the examples, animals and other symbolic objects had a complex meaning, which, in addition, changed over the centuries. For the explanation of their meaning it would be useful to date the gargoyles, but as shown above, this is difficult, if not impossible.