Gargoyles Information

In architecture, a gargoyle is a carved stone grotesque with a spout designed to convey water from a roof and away from the side of a building. Preventing rainwater from running down masonry walls is important because running water erodes the mortar between the stone blocks. 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, originally "throat" or "gullet"; cf. Latin gurgulio, gula, gargula and similar words derived from the root gar, "to swallow", which represented the gurgling sound of water . It is also connected to the French verb gargariser, which means "to gargle." The Italian word for gargoyle is grĂ³nda sporgente, an architecturally precise phrase which means "protuding gutter." The German word for gargoyle is Wasserspeier, which means "water spitter." The Dutch word for gargoyle is waterspuwer, which means "water spitter" or "water vomiter." A building that has gargoyles on it is "gargoyled."

A grotesque figure is a sculpture that does not work as a waterspout and serves only an ornamental or artistic function. These are also usually called gargoyles in layman's terminology, although the field of architecture usually preserves the distinction between gargoyles and non-waterspout grotesques.

Wikipedia, Gargoyles, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gargoyles (as of Apr 1, 2010)

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