Monsters in stone

Besides gargoyles, the most famous of which are of course the Notre Dame gargoyles, there are chimeras (equally grotesque but not architecturally useful as spouts for rain water). But I love mascarons, especially this one above a door in Thonon-les-Bains, France, photographed by a friend:


This little monster looks so aggravated in his attempt to scare evil spirits away, rolling his eyes and showing teeth, reluctantly, like a disgruntled dog. I love this example of a monstrous creature because he (is it really a gendered one?) seems to be a cross between a traditional mascaron, a Green Man, an animal and a sun-shaped ornament, but especially because of his intense expression and individuality.

These monsters in stone are a fascinating feature of popular culture, originating in antiquity but most ubiquitous in the Middle Ages. A clean wall or façade were a perfect slate for expression of the tastes of the community rather than a “cultivated” artistic individuality. Indeed, a gargoyle wouldn’t be included in a church’s façade if the community wouldn’t recognize it as a meaningful element. I wonder what thoughts and emotions those mascarons evoked in people entering or passing by a building. They probably weren’t intimidated but just fascinated with their grotesqueness. Feel free to suggest links of interesting monsters!


One response to “Monsters in stone

  1. Pingback: Monster narratives « Notes from Chronotopia

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