Grotesque (architecture)

Chimerae on a church in Gouézec, France

In architecture, a chimera or grotesque is a fantastic or mythical figure used for decorative purposes. Chimerae are often described as gargoyles, although the term gargoyle technically refers to figures carved specifically as terminations to spouts which convey water away from the sides of buildings. In the Middle Ages, the term babewyn was used to refer to both gargoyles and chimerae.[1] This word is derived from the Italian word babuino, which means "baboon."

Bridaham, in his book Gargoyles, Chimeres, and the Grotesque in French Gothic Sculpture points out that the sculptors of the Gothic cathedrals in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries was tasked by the Pope to be “a preacher in stone” to the illiterates who populated Europe at the time. It fell to them to not only present the stories of the Bible but also portray the animals and beings who populated the folk lore of the times. Many of these showed up as grotesques and chimeres, carved on the buildings.[2]


See also


  1. Janetta Rebold Benton (1997). Holy Terrors: Gargoyles on Medieval Buildings. New York: Abbeville Press. pp. 8–10. ISBN 0-7892-0182-8.
  2. Bridaham, Lester Burbank, Gargoyles, Chimeres, and the Grotesque in French Gothic Sculpture, introduction by Ralph Adams Cram, Architectural Book Publishing Co., Inc, New York, 1930 p. ix
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