"My gallery of gorgeous gargoyles!" Top 5 Page for this destination Avignon Travelogue by CatherineReichardt

Avignon Travel Guide: 505 reviews and 1,486 photos

(work in progress)
Ever since I was a child, I've loved a good gargoyle!

In fact, I'd go as far as to say that my early encounters with gargoyles - probably on top of Notre Dame de Paris and the Dom in Koeln - helped to spark my subsequent passion for Gothic architecture and history.

The symbolism of gargoyles is so edgy and well - often downright rude - that it cannot but appeal to the rebellious child in us all who'd love the latitude to be so badly behaved in public! And in latter years, I have come to appreciate designs which cunningly combine functionality with decoration - why have a dull downpipe when you can have a furiously howling banshee spewing forth bilge which serves exactly the same function???

The 'lady' below (who graces the top of the Palais des Papes - just look for her on the battlements by the viewpoint adjacent to the spikey Gothic towers) is my current favourite. You can just sense her incandescent rage and know that whatever language she is screaming in, you wouldn't need a word of vocabulary to understand the sentiment being conveyed!

Why this little chap - located high up just inside the main entrance, to the right of the cannonballs (see my other travel tip) - is trying to strangle himself is anyone's guess.

But that's the great thing about gargoyles: they provide you with carte blanche to let your macabre imagination run riot. If you're ever in a situation where your kids are bored in the vicinity of a Gothic church, asking them to spot gargoyles and make up stories about them is an excellent diversionary tactic!

Disney's cartoon version of the Hunchback of Notre Dame was clearly similarly inspired, although I have to say that their characterisation is rather more benign than that which the average grotesque gargoyle would inspire for me ... but that's the Disneyfied version of reality for you!

Just in case you've never had the chance to appreciate the inner workings of a gargoyle, the Palais des Papes in Avignon has a Nosferatu-inspired one on display which allows you to look up into the beastie's throat and see the water pipe discharging through the mouth. I don't think that I've ever seen this displayed in a museum before, and yet it's such an obvious thing to illustrate: yet another big tick for this amazing museum!

  • Page Updated May 9, 2016
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CatherineReichardt

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