Gruesome Gargoyles: Architecture’s Mystifying Creatures Explained

From lions and dragons to other eye-catching beasts, gargoyles are both a prevalent and peculiar element of architecture. Found on churches, cathedrals, city halls, and stone buildings all around the world, gargoyles are not just decorative – some serve a purpose that many people overlook.

Visible on famous structures such as Notre Dame Church in France, Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland, and Old City Hall in Toronto, gargoyles were erected on top of stone buildings in order to act as rain spouts. Designed to protect the roof and masonry mortar from rain, most gargoyles feature a trough in the back and an open mouth that serves the purpose of a down spout.

Gargoyles often depict lions, dogs, and animal-hybrid chimeras. Those that feature faces or mythological beasts are more accurately known as grotesques. While gargoyles on parapets and rooftops serve purpose and function, most grotesques serve as nothing more than decoration.

Our favorite chimera made his way onto our Gargoyle Elf Christmas card – he doesn’t look quite so scary when he’s wearing a Santa hat!

See more of our Ziti Christmas cards for architects, including our NEW card line up, at

Share This: