In architecture and medieval works, Gargoyles are creatures known for protecting a place (usually a castle or a cathedral) from evil.
However, due to their distinctive appearance, most fictional books are using these characters as demonic vessels. Most literary works depict Gargoyles as creatures brought to life by evil.
You’ve probably seen Gargoyles in several fictional books. Whether in film, tv shows, or even video games, these creatures are among the most distinctive creatures in fiction.
Even if you’re not into fictional stories, you can easily recognize this magnificent and horrifying creature. One of the biggest questions about them is this: are these winged beasts demonic?
Gargoyles are shown as protectors of their homes. Perched in the roof of a building, they will spring to life and fight the intruders who dare to go to their lair.
Let’s learn more about Gargoyles and reveal whether these are originally evil creatures or just a wrongful amalgamation of history and fiction.
Are Gargoyles Demons Or Not?
To answer the question, the moral compass of gargoyles is solely dependent on the story. In most stories, gargoyles are usually vessels for souls. Their actions are dependent on whoever inhabits them and use them as primary bodies.
In some stories, gargoyles are creatures used by other evil entities for the destruction of humans. However, they are not demons, but only stone statues animated by other demonic creatures’ magic or power. You can say that gargoyles are comparable to golems, which are imbued with magic to move.
But if you want to keep the original French lore elements, then gargoyles are just stone statues installed on the roof of a church or any other structure. These stones will not move and are only there to keep evil creatures from harming the church’s inhabitants. Until today, almost all of the depictions for St. Romanus include him slaying the La Garouille.
What Is A Gargoyle?
Originally, gargoyles serve as a practical part of medieval architecture. Gargoyles are statues added in cathedrals and other large structures to siphon rainwater and transfer the water flow away from masonry walls.
So, in reality, gargoyles are rainwater drains that protect the overall integrity of a structure.
Like many things in medieval times, even these “rain drains” are carved on stones with horrifying aesthetics.
The statues usually feature grotesque flying beasts with sharp fangs and nails. And because of that, the concept of frozen monster “gargoyles” is invented.
Brief History Of Demon Gargoyles
Due to their practical use (protecting the masonry walls,) early medieval artists often depict these monsters are protectors.
People during the early days believed that gargoyles frighten away evil spirits and other harmful elements.
They are known as guardians of temples, castles, and cathedrals. That is the reason why most of the old cathedrals that still exist today have some form of carved gargoyles on the roof.
The First-Ever Gargoyle Legend
Between 631AD to 641AD, the French legend appeared at the same time as ancient Bishop St. Romanus. He served as a bishop in Rouen during this era.
St. Romanus brought a statue of a being with dragon features to the country.
He called this creature La Garouille, a fire-breathing monster that he and one other volunteer defeated to free the people of Rouen from sacrificing one person per year.
St. Romanus and his companion burned the body of the dragon once it was defeated and killed. Only the neck and the head remain because these parts are tempered with fire powers.
Later on, St. Romanus attached the head and neck to a newly-built church to ward evil spirits. Hence, the name “gargoyle” and its role as a protector have originated in this story.
Gargoyles As Sinister Creatures
Gargoyles don’t use to be animate objects with extraordinary powers. They do not come to life to haunt their intruders. However, this all changed in 1932, when Clark Ashton Smith wrote his short fiction story called “Maker of Gargoyles.”
In this story, the stonemason named “Reynard” infused his hate into the gargoyles that he was making. These gargoyles came back to life and attacked a fictional town called Vyones.
Since then, the alive and moving evil gargoyle sculptures appeared in various literary features.
One example of this is Dr. Who’s episode, “The Dæmons,” wherein a gargoyle named Bok was brought back to life. In the two previous examples, the gargoyles are evil characters, a drastic change from their protector image.
Gargoyles As Soul Vessels
In most fiction stories, gargoyles are neither good nor evil. These examples above use gargoyles as vessels for more powerful creatures.
For instance, in 1932, Lewis Spence wrote his story called “The Horn Of Vapula,” wherein a bounded demon inside a goatlike gargoyle.
This depiction is what was is usually seen in most modern horror stories.
One of the most iconic gargoyle-vessel appearances in pop culture is in the 1984 movie “Ghostbusters.”
In this movie, the gargoyles are depicted as horned canine creatures instead of goat-like ones. Demonic spirits named Zuul and Vinz Klortho possessed these statues.
Marvel’s character Isaac Christians inhabit a gargoyle statue, which he uses as a hero.
Gargoyles In Today’s Daily Life
Gargoyles might have been a creation from medieval times, but this doesn’t mean that all of these statues are old.
One of the most notable gargoyle structures, the Notre Dame gargoyles, was added during the mid-1800s. Pittsburgh is another hotbed for gargoyle structures, which began appearing in the area during the 19th century.
This statue does not only use dragons, demonic, or goatlike models. The Cologne Cathedral in Germany uses carved figures modeled based on Ahmed Benzizine.
Benzizine served as the renovation construction manager of the church. The church used Benzizine’s face as a “thank you” for his long service.
Just like in ancient times, gargoyles are still used today as protectors of structures. These decorative waterspouts are still useful in redirecting away rainwater from the walls, avoiding the walls and mortars’ erosion. You can find these gargoyles on gothic-themed structures.