Gargoyles On Churches

A

Anonymous

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#1
Originally used as decorative waterspouts, doubling up as scary statues to protect against evil spirits - does anyone else find it odd that the Church should employ demonic images to scare off evil spirits?

What is the reasoning behind it?

If a Christian today decided to erect a demonic statue on a church or in the grounds of a church 'to scare evil spirits away' wouldn't he/she be flamed?

Why not use Angels or Cherubs as a positive images to combat evil spirits?

Wouldn't an evil spirit see a gargoyle and think 'Hi mate, mind if I join you?'

I am perplexed. :hah:
 

Spookyangel

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#2
Good point, I thought it was to scare them off, but then they wouldn't find it scary! They are more likely to scare off the angels and good spirits. Hmm.
I guess there was some reasoning behind them initially and maybe it's been lost over the years. Now we expect to see them as part of culture. Strange.
 

Spookyangel

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#4
Thanks for the link. So maybe they are there to fool the demons into thinking they are already there, but then what's stopping them joining the party?
I prefer the idea of the juxtaposition of them against the purity of the church (medievil concept). Interesting.
 
A

Anonymous

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#5
Perhaps it was a constant reminder to the congregation and perhaps young novice monks, that outside the church establishment was all sorts of evils and temptations of the devil.

It kept you in if you were in and it made you desire entrance from the outdoor world of evil.

Funny.........the interiors of many of our finest cathedrals and abbeys were perhaps some of the most evil, dominating and powerful forces on the planet.

The terror to be had at church!

I dunno..............its a damn good query and feel that it has much more to offer yet in the way of solutions and theories.

I am sure my Idea is not the only reason.

It still raises the question why are they attached to the Holy Buildings and why are they demonic. They could have illustrated some negative biblical scenes.

It also occured to me that they may have been designed to frighten any heathen force that may have attacked the sanctury of church.

That is, after all, why many are built as fortresses.

Its a good topic!
 
A

Anonymous

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#6
Just a shot in the dark, but could it be derived from some sort of Pagan thing. The church has stolen so much already, ie Christmas.
 

oll_lewis

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#7
Nope, christmas was a christian Idea (can't quite imagine pagans celibrateing christs birth:confused: ) there was a pagan ceromony on the same date as christmas (satinalia (sp?)) but the early christans placed christmass on this day to make it so that people would have to choose between the 2 partys, hense no people who worshiped the Roman gods seriously would attend christmas.
 
A

Anonymous

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#8
Nope, christmas was a christian Idea (can't quite imagine pagans celibrateing christs birth )


I rather think that is what Cosmic Baby meant though, Oll!

Cant we just investigate it rather than ram each other of the board.

It can be a bit competitive here sometimes, cant it.
 
A

Anonymous

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#9
I just think they were stonemasons showing off--
I like the gargoyle with a top hat (I K Brunel anyone?) and the Sheila-na-gig at Winchcombe.
There is a Noah's ark on York Minster, but you are right, they are not usually religious.
Many overtly religious statues were removed during the Reformation btw.
the medieval carving of wood inside the churches is just the same,
figurative, fantastic, grotesque, humorous, elephants and mermaids.
these wonderful devices were mostly created in the later medieval period, and are unlikely to be connected with pagan images by that time,
but are purely sculptors expressing themselves.
In the Baroque period they used stuff like dolphins and pineapples.
for instance the greeks tended to use stylised acanthus flowers, - not much symbolism there, but a nice stonemason's tradition
that went through a series of stylistic mutations.
basically, it is a style thing, not a devotional thing, IMO
steve b
 
A

Anonymous

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#10
Ugly brothers.....!

Many of the uglier gargoyles in York Minster are interspersed with representations of past archbishops, strange companions if you ask me.

Moggadon
 

Yithian

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#11
thoughts...

I think cosmic baby pretty much has the answer, although i don't have any references to hand.

A few speculative thoughts: The reason such adornment seems so incongrous today is because the beliefs/practices of established Christian groups (e.g Church of England, Roman Catholicism etc.) are far more uniform than those of their medieval predecessors - simple things like the difficulties in national and international travel/communication, for example, ensured that idiosyncratic regional differences were allowed to flourish in a way that would (probably) be frowned upon today. Seemingly Pagan (i use the term in a loose sense - i'm no expert) figures like Gargoyles, Misericords, and The Green Man were probably employed as something of a compromise - a bridge between full-blown, more orthodox Christianity and the mileu of other folk beliefs and religions that existed beforehand in formerly pagan countries (do gargoyles appear everywhere or only in Europe/U.S?). - Remember, in earlier times Christianity had been merely another cult vying for converts and acceptance. That's not to say that the priest didn't want such figures in his church, he himself probably saw no harm in such things and would probaly have grown up with the sort of quaint folk beliefs (perhaps the remants of Celticism) as his flock. For what its worth, i see their presence as a political gesture to make Christianity seem more palatable to the people, a religion that 'fitted' into their society - no one wants to desert old Gods/beliefs just in case...


edit - just re-read - i know Christianity is hardly nascent in the middle ages but what i was describing was the initial situation a few hundred years before - after that its all down to fondness, habit, and the general coolness of such figures...
 

phi23

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#15
One theory on gargoyles is that they were carved as satirical pieces by the stonemasons for the people who paid for the church to be built - the local parishoners - many gargoyles are said to represent local historical figures and stories - so the gargoyles made the church more personal for the parishoners and the church let them be added to churchs because it made them more popular.
 
A

Anonymous

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#16
Actually on Toronto's old city hall there are a number of charactater(sp?) gargoyles. The architect got pissed when the man in charge wouldn't let him put his signature on the building, so he made all these nasty gargoyles in the man's image and then snuck his signature on about a hundred times hidden in scroll-work.
There's another story on the university of Toronto's campus, two of the stone mason's were goin' after the same girl, so they made nasty gargoyles of each other. Things got so heated one of them tried to chop the other up with an ax. There is a door that still has a gouge from the ax that the students rub for good luck.
Lesson for today: don't piss off architects or masons.
 

Jerry_B

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#17
Alot of sculptural work on larger churches and cathedrals in the UK was made by French masons, so the origins of 'pagan' symbols may be more mundane and linked to French folk art. Sheila-na-gigs and a few other things are different however. I remember a few years ago an archaeologist on holiday somehwere in the UK was looking at a local church and noticed that a statue of Mary on the outside of the church was in fact a Roman statue of the Mithraic god Arimanus. This statue had been venerated by the flock for many years, so I've always wondered what their reaction was to discover that they'd been praying to a very old Persian deity ;)
 
A

Anonymous

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#18
I'm so glad people are questioning that custom of the gargoyles and grotesques on churches. And, they are also on Capital Buildings right next to political leaders, like George Washington. And on the mansions of wealthy influential people in Europe, coming from the right families. These gargoyles are not seen as negative, but as something to display proudly. They represent actual creatures that have been important historically in religion, and govenment. These creatures, the reptilians, were worshipped and served in ancient cultures all over the world. They were glorified, though they were cruel, because they had such powers over the people. One religion after another grew up around them, and many of the same stories and dates such as Christmas continued in the tradition of Christianity. They also mated and did genetic experiments with humans, and the offspring were the kings, which is why they have divine rights. The ruling class, nobility, and priest class all were proud to be descendents of those gargoyles, very up front about it in the past, but more secretive in the present. The stories for example, in Sumeria, were echoed in the stories of the Bible. Many books explain that the extraterrestrial gods of that time were actually reptilians. Sometimes the gods did not allow their true form to be depticted. But they are seen clearly in the gargoyles.
 
A

Anonymous

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#19
TantraBensko said:
These creatures, the reptilians, were worshipped and served in ancient cultures all over the world....... They were glorified, though they were cruel, because they had such powers over the people. One religion after another grew up around them..............They also mated and did genetic experiments with humans, and the offspring were the kings, which is why they have divine rights. The ruling class, nobility, and priest class all were proud to be descendents of those gargoyles, very up front about it in the past, but more secretive in the present.
I have heard that it is just the ruling classes........

That means that there is more of us than there is of them......and I'm gonna kick 'em all in the nuts (.........or gills!:).....or wherever they keep their gills...or nuts) if they come any where near me. In fact.....I was outside the Queens big hoose earlier and I did feel that it was all a bit alien to me and my little country attitude.

....but comin' from Ayrshire, Westminster is like Egypt!

The lizards are thick as shit!...........now lets see what happens to me. You may not hear me for a week.

P.S I have not seen too many gargoyles that accurately depict lizards. Although......if the lizards are among us and they look like us..........then they look like humans not demons/gargoyles/lizards

Which brings us back to the human resemblance of demonic gargoyles. Those little creations are in man's image (like the way that man created god in his image) but demonified somewhat.

They still retain human characteristics but they are distorted, contorted and......erm..........assorted?:)
 

rynner2

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#20
Eburacum45~ said:
I just think they were stonemasons showing off--
A chance for a new generation of show-offs:

'Ugly is good' in hunt for new city gargoyles
Alexandra Frean

Their grotesque faces have leered and sneered at passers-by for centuries. But now ten of the famous gargoyles on the Bodleian Library in Oxford are to be retired and replaced with younger, and possibly uglier, versions.

The University of Oxford is inviting children living or working in Oxfordshire to enter a competition to design the replacements, which are being commissioned to celebrate the city’s millennium celebrations.

The winning designs will be immortalised in limestone, hewn by Joslins, the local stonemasons, and fixed permanently on the library next year.

Isobel Hughes, head of conservation at the university, said that inspiration for the replacements could come from the hundreds of gargoyles on Oxford’s buildings.

These range from evil-looking faces sticking out their tongues to a donkey and a lady showing her bottom.

“We’re hoping for something vibrant and interesting from the children, especially if it is ugly. Ugly is good,” she said.

The competition, organised by the Oxford Preservation Trust, is open from June 18 to September 1. Entries will be judged in December.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/u ... 934699.ece
 

Xanatico

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#21
I saw somewhere they had apparently put Darth Vaders helmet on the church as a gargoyle. I think that was also after a similar competition.
Of course after that Doctor Who episode Blink, children might not want to go anywhere near gargoyles.
 

OldTimeRadio

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#23
My favorite theory is that gargoyles are fallen angels who returned to God's service.

Still appearing in their demonic guise and being or at least feeling unworthy to actually enter the church they stand guard outside.

They are "God's bulldogs."

P. S. The word "gargoyle" is of course simply cognate with "gurgle" and "gargle" and describes their drain-pipe functions.
 

The late Pete Younger

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#25
OldTimeRadio said:
My favorite theory is that gargoyles are fallen angels who returned to God's service.

Still appearing in their demonic guise and being or at least feeling unworthy to actually enter the church they stand guard outside.

They are "God's bulldogs."
Thats the best explanation so far so I think I'll stick with it. :)
 

decipheringscars

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#26
Xanatico said:
I saw somewhere they had apparently put Darth Vaders helmet on the church as a gargoyle. I think that was also after a similar competition.
Correct! That's the National Cathedral (Episcopal) in Washington, D.C. I think, though, that the Darth Vader is actually a grotesque rather than a gargoyle, but that's splitting hairs. (Gargoyles are grotesques that double as water drain spouts.)

The National Cathedral also has grotesques in places that cannot possibly be seen by anyone looking at the exterior of the cathedral - the idea is that only God can see them, yet what only God can see still deserves great skill and artisanship.

http://www.cathedral.org/cathedral/discover/darth.shtml
 

Mikefule

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#29
There doesn't have to be a logical and consistent answer of course. This is organised religion we are talking about! However, it's a good question.

I live near Staunton (Notts, UK) which has a fantastic collection of grotesque stone carvings on the outside, and near Lincoln (UK) which has the famous Lincoln Imp. Although I'm in no way religious, I have often been to admire these.

I see a possible comparison with the old idea that only God is perfect. Some ancient monuments such as chambered tombs have geometrical/line carvings on the outside that have one obvious mistake, and one interpretation is a deliberate imperfection as only the gods were perfect.

It is interesting that most of the grotesque carvings are on the outside of churches, and most of the carvings and other art inside were biblical. Maybe it's the idea of God's realm inside the church, and the uncertain risk of evil outside the church. I do know that our modern concept of God is more sophisticated and less literal than it was in medieval times. Very few modern Christians believe in the "old man with a white beard in the sky". We can speculate about what they really believed back then, but we can never know. At best, we can know what they claimed to believe.

On a side issue from upthread, I do not buy the idea that the Christian church "took over" pagan festivals and sites, at least on the scale that many people assume. The turning of the year is an obvious time to have a festival. There is an obvious best place in many villages to build a place of worship. I'd draw a comparison with a story I once heard that in (or shortly before?) WW2, the government ordered a survey of the best potentially defensible strategic sites in the country and found that there was evidence of previous fortifications at nearly every one.
 
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