A gargoyle is essentially an architectural design element used in various early buildings, especially those built in Medieval France. It is usually composed of a carved stone designed in a grotesque manner and designed with a spout to draw water flowing from a roof away from the sides of a building. Therefore, a gargoyle has both aesthetic and practical use as part of a building’s architecture.
The use of gargoyles actually has a long history that stretches down to the time of the Ancient Greeks and even before. For its strict use in plumbing, gargoyles originated as just simple wooden or stone fixtures without and design features. The first usage was probably during the 1200’s where channels and tubes were used to keep rainwater off buildings. The early versions aim to draw water away from the buildings and away from the foundations.
As time progressed, the wooden and stone fixtures slowly got their form as people began carving them. They were first carved as faces of people or animals. They eventually began to take on more grotesque forms to the point of sometimes becoming more bizarre, absurd and frightening. Some gargoyles began to take the form of fantastical creatures bearing no resemblance to those found in nature.
Gargoyles became a popular part of architectural design in Medieval buildings and structures in France. It was probably there that the term "gargoyle" originated, after the French word,"gargouille" which originally meant "throat". They already were kn own for their grotesque features since then. Some say that the gargoyle’s grotesque form were able to drive evil spirits away from the buildings and structures. This in turn help protect those who live inside.
Gargoyles of Notre Dame
Probably the most famous of gargoyles can be found in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Most of the gargoyles found there are made in grotesque fashion although there are also others which are of other images such as depicting monks, real animals and those of unusual animal mixtures or chimeras. Some of the gargoyles do not function as rain spouts but serve more as ornamentation.