Gargoyle in Hoboken, NJ »

Stone Spies

In cities across America, they stare at us with a leering gaze. Some have horns protruding from their heads; others are part animal, part human, with scowls on their faces. We are referring to grotesques: the scary figures carved into stone corbels, keystones, and friezes on building facades. In 12th century Europe, grotesques, as well as open-mouthed gargoyles—which directed rainwater away from buildings—became commonplace, especially on the outside of cathedrals. At the time, the church was trying to convert the largely pagan masses to Christianity. The figures, which were is stark contrast to the saintly sculptures that also decorated buildings, demonstrated to an illiterate congregation the difference between good and evil.
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