In architecture, a gargoyle (/ˈɡɑːrɡɔɪl/) is a carved or formed grotesque with a spout designed to convey water from a roof and away from the side of a building, thereby preventing rainwater from running down masonry walls and eroding the mortar between. Architects often used multiple gargoyles on buildings to divide the flow of rainwater off the roof to minimize the potential damage from a rainstorm. A trough is cut in the back of the gargoyle and rainwater typically exits through the open mouth. Gargoyles are usually an elongated fantastic animal because the length of the gargoyle determines how far water is thrown from the wall. When Gothic flying buttresses were used, aqueducts were sometimes cut into the buttress to divert water over the aisle walls.
The term originates from the French gargouille, which in English is likely to mean “throat” or is otherwise known as the “gullet”; cf. Latin gurgulio, gula, gargula (“gullet” or “throat”) and similar words derived from the root gar, “to swallow”, which represented the gurgling sound of water (e.g., Portuguese and Spanish garganta, “throat”; gárgola, “gargoyle”). It is also connected to the French verb gargariser, which shares a Latin root with the verb “gargle” and is likely imitative in origin. The Italian word for gargoyle is doccione or gronda sporgente, (but also gargolla o garguglia, when it has a grotesque shape) an architecturally precise phrase which means “protruding gutter.”
When not constructed as a waterspout and only serving an ornamental or artistic function, the correct term for such a sculpture is a grotesque, chimera, or boss. Just as with bosses and chimeras, gargoyles are said to frighten off and protect those that it guards, such as a church, from any evil or harmful spirits. However, in common usage, the word “gargoyle” is generally used to describe any monstrous sculpture, whether intended as a waterspout or not.
Legend of the Gargouille
A French legend that sprang up around the name of St. Romanus (French: Romain; fl. c. 631 – 641 AD), the former chancellor of the Merovingian king Clotaire II who was made bishop of Rouen, relates how he delivered the country around Rouen from a monster called Gargouille or Goji. La Gargouille is said to have been the typical dragon with batlike wings, a long neck, and the ability to breathe fire from its mouth. There are multiple versions of the story, either that St. Romanus subdued the creature with a crucifix, or he captured the creature with the help of the only volunteer, a condemned man. In each, the monster is led back to Rouen and burned, but its head and neck would not burn due to being tempered by its own fire breath. The head was then mounted on the walls of the newly built church to scare off evil spirits, and used for protection. In commemoration of St. Romain, the Archbishops of Rouen were granted the right to set a prisoner free on the day that the reliquary of the saint was carried in procession (see details at Rouen).
The term gargoyle is most often applied to medieval work, but throughout all ages some means of water diversion, when not conveyed in gutters, was adopted. In Ancient Egyptian architecture, gargoyles showed little variation, typically in the form of a lion’s head. Similar lion-mouthed water spouts were also seen on Greek temples, carved or modelled in the marble or terracotta cymatium of the cornice. An excellent example of this are the 39 remaining lion-headed water spouts on the Temple of Zeus. There were originally 102 gargoyles or spouts, but due to the heavy weight (they were crafted from marble), many have snapped off and had to be replaced.
Many medieval cathedrals included gargoyles and chimeras. The most famous examples are those of Notre Dame de Paris. Although most have grotesque features, the term gargoyle has come to include all types of images. Some gargoyles were depicted as monks, or combinations of real animals and people, many of which were humorous. Unusual animal mixtures, or chimeras, did not act as rainspouts and are more properly called grotesques. They serve more as ornamentation, but are now synonymous with gargoyles.
Both ornamented and unornamented water spouts projecting from roofs at parapet level were a common device used to shed rainwater from buildings until the early eighteenth century. From that time, more and more buildings bought drainpipes to carry the water from the guttering roof to the ground and only very few buildings using gargoyles were constructed. This was because some people found them frightening, and sometimes heavy ones fell off, causing damage. In 1724, the London Building Act passed by the Parliament of Great Britain made the use of downpipes compulsory on all new construction.
Créditos de este texto:
Gárgola es un ser imaginario, representado generalmente en piedra, que posee características a menudo grotescas. Su nombre puede derivar del francés gargouille (gargouiller, producir un ruido semejante al de un líquido en un tubo), y éste del latín gargărīzo, que a su vez deriva del griego hacer gárgaras.
El origen de las gárgolas se remonta a la Edad Media y se relaciona con el auge de los bestiarios y los tormentos del infierno. Cierto es también que la imaginación de los artistas medievales estaba abonada por mitos aún más antiguos. De hecho, las primeras gárgolas fueron bautizadas con el nombre de ‘grifos’, o bien evidenciando así su raigambre clásica[cita requerida]. No obstante, la iconografía gargólica no se limitaba a la mera representación de grifos, sino que plasmaba, además, otros seres fabulosos que podían tomar la forma de animales, seres humanos o una mezcla de ambos; pero siempre representados de manera más o menos monstruosa. En la época actual podemos encontrar la serie Gárgolas que representa los poderes supuestos mitológicos que estas rocas con forma monstruosa desempeñaban.
Las gárgolas cumplían tres funciones básicas, a saber:
Desaguar los tejados. Ver gárgola (arquitectura).
Decorar dichos desagües buscando, por tanto, una finalidad estética.
Una tercera, apoyada en creencias populares y leyendas de que sirven para ahuyentar al demonio y otros espíritus del mal.