Gargoyles of Notre Dame

Years Built: 1163-1345

Artist: Unknown

Location: Paris, France, On top of the Notre Dame

Medium: Stone or Limestone

Size: Everyone is different from shape and size.


The Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the first Gothic cathedrals. Its sculptures and stained glass show the heavy influence of naturalism, unlike that of earlier Romanesque architecture. The Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was among the first buildings to use the style of archeticutre that included “flying buttress.” These buttresses support the high celings of the cathedral. However, the flying buttresses were not part of the original design of this magnificent creation. First, they built the choir and the nave; after that, they started to build the the rest of the church with thinner walls. However, as the height of the walls forced them to push outwards, cracks and stress fractures spread. The cathedral’s architects built supports–flying butresses–around the outside walls, and later added several more to continue the pattern. Due to this unique support system, Notre Dame has very high, spacious ceilings. When people walk into the Notre Dame they are immeditaly awestruck by its giant gothic arches and stained glass windows, but once they ride to the top of the Bell Tower they are struck even deeper by the glourious view of Paris. This is the first time the visitor sees the 19th century Gargoyles, which are a significant part of the history of ancient Paris. These monstrous creatures have a very horrifying look, with their arched backs and demonic faces. The detail is intricate and purposeful; the figures have stressed shoulder blades on their stoned backs as well as sharp nails on their toes and hands. There are many myths that center around the birth of these scary looking creature. One myth discusses what the Gargoyles represent, claiming that they are used to scare away evil spirits and demons from the chapel. Another myth is that evil spirits, people and demons whose physical bodies are no longer with them, are cast into the Gargoyles as a punishment for all of eternity. The last major myth insists that the job of the Gargoyles is to strike the fear of hell into the people of Paris through their hunting eyes, motivating them to be on their best behavior. A Gargoyle is made of carved stone, with a spout designed to bring water away from the roof and off the sides of the building. On the other hand, some of the Gargoyles don’t work as waterspouts and serve only as decoration. These are called chimeras, or a “grotesque figure.” Citizens and tourists usually simply call these decorative figures gargoyles, although architects make a distinction between gargoyles (which are functional waterspouts) and non-waterspout grotesques. The gargoyles at the top of the Notre Dame are actually the grotesque type, and the small gargoyles that stick out on the side of the church are the waterspouts. These horrifying pieces of artwork have many functions, from draining water off the roof to casting fear into the people of Paris. Gargoyles are a great example of how water and art are used together to function in a practical manner.

Work Cited


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