French Cathedrals With Gargoyles and Chimeras
Gargoyles are said to protect what they guard, such as a building, from any evil or harmful spirits. They also represent monsters inspired by fantastic bestiaries, wild or domestic beasts, and even mankind. Notre Dame Cathedral was completed in the mid-thirteenth century. A gargoyle is a carved or formed grotesque with a spout designed to convey water from a roof and away from the side of a building. Architects often used multiple gargoyles on a building to divide the flow of rainwater off the roof to minimize the potential damage from a rainstorm.
Source – The Origin Of French Gargoyles : The story takes place in the seventh century. It’s been retold many times over the last 1400 years. It all started in Normandy, where the Seine River snakes through a town now known as Rouen. It is said that a fearsome monster took up residence in the marshes along the banks of the river. He caused havoc along the river, sinking ships and eating the passengers. He flooded fields and ate all the unfortunate people and animals that crossed his path. The city leaders brokered a deal with the monster to keep those within the city walls safe. Father Romain was to feed the dragon his annual human sacrifice. With him was a nervous prisoner who would be used as bait to lure out the monster. If all went well and the monster dealt with, the prisoner was to be pardoned. As the faithful priest and the fearful prisoner approached La Gargouille’s lair, the dragon lumbered out to meet them. Just as he was ready to lunge for the prisoner, Father Romain pulled out his secret weapon – a large solid gold cross.
The gargoyle gutter system spread all over France and around the world. They were called gargoyles after La Gargouille, the river monster conquered by Father Romain. The prisoner who was almost the gargoyle’s dinner? He started a tradition too that of honoring and remembering the condemned prisoner who helped save the town, Rouen applied to the king for permission to free one condemned prisoner per year.
Dijon’s Notre Dame Church
Though the most famous gargoyles are on Notre Dame de Paris, however one can find gargoyles on most French cathedrals, and Dijon’s Notre Dame Cathedral is no different. This unusual, square-faced cathedral, commenced in 1230, and is a medieval masterpiece, but current gargoyles were only carved in the 1880s. The original façade from the middle ages had many such gargoyles of monsters and men, but local legend states they were all, but one, removed by the friends of a money lender, who was killed by a falling stone gargoyle on his wedding day.
Chapelle de Bethléem Saint-Jean-de-Boiseau Gargoyles.
Chapelle de Bethléem of Saint-Jean-de-Boiseau in Loire-Atlantique is a jewel of late middle ages Gothic Architecture, but the chapel was practically a ruin by the 1990s, with all the pinnacles needing to be replaced. The Batîment de France architect Gwenole Congnard assigned the task to stone carver Jean-Louis Boisel. Boisel envisioned something aesthetically questionable but decidedly bold: Instead of choosing traditional medieval forms for his pieces, he used figures of pop culture. Monsters from Gremlins including cuddly Gizmo, as well as creatures from Alien act as modern chimeras.
Restoration of Notre Dame Cathedral
The French Revolution badly damaged the symbol of the hated monarchy. During the French Revolution 28 statues of biblical kings on the west portal were beheaded, along with King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette. During the Reign of Terror, from June 1793 to July 1794 about 17,000 people were guillotined. With the strange and mythical beasts absent, King Louis Philippe in 1831 commissioned restoration work of the Notre Dame Cathedral, which included the iconic gargoyles. In 1844, a French architect, Viollet-le-Duc, just thirty years old, won a competition for the restoration of Notre Dame Cathedral. The project involved primarily the façade, where many of the statues over the portals had been beheaded or smashed during the Revolution. His dictate that “form follows function’ and study of medieval techniques for building higher and lighter influenced the first skyscrapers. One of his last projects, left incomplete by his death in 1879, was designing the frame for the Statue of Liberty.