On the façade of Strasbourg’s Cathedral or Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg, as on most Medieval cathedrals, many of the fantastic creatures perched on these buildings are not gargoyles at all. Rather, they're grotesques. A gargoyle is a grotesque that also acts as drain-spout. Grotesques are decorative elements of Gothic architecture that didn’t become popular until around the 13th century beginning in France, though earlier editions existed in different cultures for centuries. Though they differ in function, gargoyles and grotesques were intended to frighten and protect. Consequently, intimidating animals, exotic hybrids (called chimera), mythical creatures, and even unsettling humans were popular subjects across both types of sculpture—though some are more humorous than hair-raising. The gargoyles that adorned the ends of waterspouts on Gothic churches had the added function to move water away from the exterior walls.
February 27th, 2021
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