Streets of Utopia, Egypt: Art and Function Gargoyles in Egypt are the spout designed on the roofs of buildings to convey water from the sidelines of the buildings, these are not just captivating artistic elements on buildings, particularly churches, but they also serve a practical purpose.
While their gothic style is similar to grotesques, gargoyles are made with an open mouth that helps to drain away the rainwater collected on the roofs of the masonry buildings. A groove is cut along the top of the statue, channelling rainwater through the gargoyle’s open mouth and onto the roads below. This ingenious design helps protect the building’s stone walls from erosion.
The word “gargoyle” has its roots in the French word “gargouille,” which translates to “throat.” Gargouille is also associated with an old French legend featuring a dragon named La Gargouille. This fearsome creature had a long, twisted neck, a gaping mouth with powerful jaws, terrifying eyes, and massive wings. It lived in a cave near the River Seine and wreaked havoc on the nearby town of Rouen.
Eventually, a Christian priest named Romanus defeated the dragon, and its head and neck were displayed at the village entrance as a warning. This legend inspired the carving of dragon heads on buildings and water spouts, leading to the creation of the gargoyles we see today.
Gargoyles have a long and fascinating history, becoming particularly popular in European churches during the 1200s. The oldest known gargoyle on a building is 13th century old and is located in Kayseri, Turkey.
Ancient civilizations, which include the Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks, also carved gargoyles to serve as drain spouts on their buildings.
Many people mistakenly believe that gargoyles and grotesques are the same thing. However, while grotesques encompass all decorative architectural creatures, gargoyles always have functioning drainage conduits. Thus, all grotesques are not gargoyles, but all gargoyles are grotesques.
Gargoyles have captured the imagination of people for centuries, serving as both artistic masterpieces and functional elements in architecture. Their rich history and the legends surrounding their origins fascinate us, making them an enduring symbol of the Gothic era.