15 Animals That Are Signs From People Who Passed Away The Symbolism of Gargoyle Statues

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The Symbolism of Gargoyle Statues

Gargoyle statues are a popular choice for our homes and gardens today. Our fascination with these grotesque creatures is, it seems, as widespread now as it was in medieval times.

Neo-Gothic artists take their inspiration from the magnificent Gothic designs of the 15th century, creating modern gargoyle statues in the “cathedral style”. Gargoyle statues allow the artist great freedom in style and expression and include a range of styles from the monstrous and grotesque to the amusing or whimsical.

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, living in 12th-century France, made this now-famous complaint about the gargoyle carvings he saw around him:

“What are these fantastic monsters doing in the monasteries under the eyes of the brothers as they read? What is the meaning of these unclean monkeys, lions, and strange wild monsters? For what purpose have these creatures, half beast, half man, been placed here I see some bodies with one head and several heads with one body. Here is a quadruped with the head of a snake, there a fish with the head of a quadruped, then again an animal half horse, half goat… Surely if we do not blush at such absurdities we should at least we regret what we spent on them.”

While no ancient texts exist that explain the meaning of these strange creatures, we do know that artisans as far back as the Bronze Age used grotesque forms including gorgons, griffins and sphinxes to ward off the forces of evil. Perhaps medieval man thought he could ward off evil forces by presenting an equally powerful set of evil forces.

Some believe that the grotesque gargoyles were meant to be church guards, magical signs to ward off the devil. Mixtures of animals, humans and mythical creatures have long been used by artists to create frightening images. It was said that the devil was always watching, just as gargoyles always watched passers-by. Everywhere he looked, these silent observers were watching patiently.

The fact that these grotesque creatures were allowed into the medieval church, otherwise adorned with beautiful works of art, can be explained by the notion that the devil is actually on God’s side, doing God’s work when punishing the wicked. Many gargoyles are demon-like and appear to have landed on church ledges, frozen in flight but ready to pounce at any time on the unsuspecting.

A popular belief is that the grotesque gargoyles were used to educate by scaring or shocking a largely illiterate pagan population into “behaving”. Physical deformities in medieval times were seen as an act of the devil, so these gargoyles served as a warning to sinners.

Some believe that these monstrous gargoyles represented the souls of people condemned for their sins. The price of sin, even though they were spared eternal damnation, was to turn to stone. This would correspond to the theory of the gargoyles being for education, as they would then have been reminders of what could happen to those who disobeyed religious laws.

However, not all gargoyles were intended to intimidate, scold or threaten. Some seem to have a more profane purpose; to amuse or amuse. Rather than inspiring fear, the more comical gargoyles have animated faces and animated poses, conveying a tremendous sense of energy and giving great character to the buildings they are housed in. However, even these more comical gargoyles may have conveyed more than just entertainment to their creators and original viewers, for humorous imagery can often be used to say things that could not be said, and satire has long been used to faced with unpleasant, controversial, or scary issues.

That gargoyles can be interpreted as both good and bad is served by a description found in the Roman d’Abladane, written by a 13th-century bishop. He describes how there were two gargoyles at the then gate of Amiens, which could gauge the motivation of any person entering the city. If someone had evil intentions, the gargoyles would spit venom so terrible that they would cover them and die. But when the lord of the city came, he would be covered with gold from one gargoyle and silver from the other.

Modern gargoyles come in a variety of styles, both scary and fun. Which one you chose, and the symbolism or meaning associated with it, really depends on your personal style. Gargoyle statues are believed to offer protection from evil and many people display them near the front door of the house or in a prominent part of the garden.

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