Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Gargoyles in Texas - Werewolves in London - Whatever

I want to tell you about an interesting experience I had. I talked about this on my blog Petticoats and Pistols so if you follow that you might have heard of this before.

Do you ever see a gargoyle on some building and just shake your head and wonder, “What in the world were they thinking?”

Well, I saw a gargoyle. In Texas of all places. (Not sure why but everytime I think, “Gargoyles in Texas” the song “Werewolves in London” starts running through my head).

So I went to a book event in Texas and while we were walking around looking for food, we walked past this unbelievable stone building. An old courthouse they call Old Red. It was possibly the most beautiful I’ve ever seen….keeping in mind I don’t get out much.

Knowing it was built in 1890 makes it even more impressive. It really is beautiful.
 And while I was staring at this beautiful building I noticed the gargoyle.

So, of course, being of a twisted nature, I immediately thought of y’all here, those who read my blog.

Rather than write a lovely blog about turn of the LAST century construction methods or American Ingenuity or even TEXAS…how obvious is THAT???….I stared at that weird gargoyle and a topic came to mind.
Gargoyles in Texas.

What was he DOING up there? What were the Texans THINKING? Sure we expect gargoyles in Paris…theyre FRENCH they’re always doing something like that. But this is DALLAS. Come on!
So I researched gargoyles and found to my surprise there is a point to it all.

A gargoyle is a carved stone figure with a spout designed to convey water from a roof and away from the side of a building.

The term means “throat” or “gullet.”

That’s right, a gargoyle isn’t just cool or weird or artistic. It’s not a figure meant to drive away evil spirits (that was my first guess). It has an architectural purpose, to catch water and make it pour off, away from the building to protect the foundation. It’s the 16th century answer to rain gutters.
I found comfort in that.
Gargoyles had a purpose.
No explaining why they had to be ugly though.
Why not a spout or a … a … pitcher…or a maiden with a tipped water bucket.
And of course I soon found out too, that after they first used gargoyles for practical (if ugly) reasons, they soon began just slapping ugly creatures up on their building for ‘artistic’ purposes. I can hear the architect now, whining, “Why does the cathedral at Notre Dame get a gargoyle and I don’t.”

Contractor: “Notre Dame's foundation was at risk and  to no one’s surprise, there was a sale on the really UGLY water spouts so they bought them.”
Architect: "But I WANT THEM!"
Contractor: "There aren't any drainage problems in this part of town. Shut up!"
Architect drops to the ground and begins turning blue while kicking his feet.  “I’m holding my breath until you give me a gargoyle.”
Contractor, knowing his job site was going to unionize if he didn't settle this pronto: "Okay, fine, we'll get you a stupid gargoyle. But this project is already over budget.We're not paying more for your gargoyles then the ones at that fanciest church in the world. Take it or leave it."
Architect (sniffling while he dries his eyes): They're not ugly to ME!!!!!!!

Enter the era of the chimera or grotesque figure, (no, the term grotesque figure has nothing to do with the failure of my latest attempt at dieting, shut up)

A chimera is a sculpture that does not work as a waterspout and serves only an ornamental or artistic function. Again, ugly. Hello!
These are also usually called gargoyles by average folks but architects know the difference. So........smart about terminology........dumb about art.
So there you have it. No idea if the gargoyle up on the top of Old Red spouts water but I doubt it because it’s not on the edge of the building. So, shame on Texas for perching a gargoyle up on top of Old Red and not having a practical explanation for why, why, why they thought it was a good idea. They could at least have put a Stetson on his head.
So, admit it. You want one. Good bye gutters and downspouts, every one here is going to put a gargoyle on their house just as soon as they can afford some daffy French architect to slap one up there.


Anne Mateer said...

You were in Dallas?? When?? I wish I could have run by and said hi!

Riah said...

This is hilarious! I can just see it now... The irritated contractor just throwing down his hands in total frustration. Poor guy. I knew that about the gargoyles though... Us poor home schoolers have to learn everything!

Mary Connealy said...

Hi Anne! This was BEFORE September, or for sure I'd have hunted you up.

It looks like I'm going to be in Mission, TX one of these days. Maybe the end of February, but that's way, way, way south.

Lisa said...

Mary, that was a HOOT!! I haven't laughed that hard in awhile!! Thanks!!

Karen said...

Wow, I didn't know that. That does make them a bit more palatable.

Mary Connealy said...

but why do they have to be UGLY???

Answer me that?

Kym McNabney said...

Very cool pictures.