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Gargoyles — What They are, Why Really They Exist

Gargoyles are architecturally designed to convey water from a roof to the floor or totally divert water to a different space on a building. They are naturally built to prevent rainwater from running down walls and eroding mortars.

Architects use gargoyles to divide the flow of rainwater off the roofs to minimize potential damages during rainstorms. A trough is cut in the back of the gargoyle and rainwater typically exits through the open mouth. Gargoyles are usually elongated fantastical animals because the length of the gargoyle determines how far water is directed from the wall.

The term originates from the French gargouille, which in English is likely to mean “throat” or is otherwise known as the “gullet”. Latin gurgulio, gula, gargula (“gullet” or “throat”) and similar words derived from the root gar, “to swallow”, which represented the gurgling sound of water ( It is also connected to the French verb gargariser, which shares a Latin root with the verb “gargle” and is likely imitative in origin. The Italian word for gargoyle is doccione or gronda sporgente, an architecturally precise phrase which means “protruding gutter”. (Italian also uses gargolla o garguglia, when it has a grotesque shape)

Gargoyle
Gargoyle

The word gargoyle is from the Greek gargarizein meaning to “wash the throat.” The word “gargle” comes from the same Greek derivation In fact, the word spelled as gurgoyle was commonly used in the 19th century, most notably by British author Thomas Hardy in Chapter 46 of Far From the Madding Crowd (1874).

WHY THEY EXIST

When not constructed as a waterspout and only serving an ornamental or artistic function, the correct term for such a sculpture is a grotesque, chimera, or boss. There are also regional variations, such as the hunky punk. Just as with bosses and chimeras, gargoyles are said to protect what they guard, such as a church, from any evil or harmful spirits.

However, their protecting stance are not just from evil or harmful spirits, but they also protect buildings from damages by aiding water movement.

Do we agree that GARGOYLES ARE quite helpful? I believe we do!

BEFORE YOU LEAVE

Check out some of our historical Gargoyle collections — HERE

Points gotten from — Wikipedia and ThoughtCo.

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