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12 Crazy & Fearsome Gargoyle History Facts

Here are 12 gruesome gargoyle facts to make you sputter! Check them out and find out all about these cool carvings!

Beano Facts Team
Last Updated:  November 1st 2022

Gargoyles! They're weird, creepy and old! But there's so much more to these stone statues than that! We've put together 12 awesome facts all about gargoyles just for you! Find out how long they've been around, what the word gargoyle means, and why some gargoyles are actually really funny! And if you loved these gruesome gargoyle facts, check out these magical unicorn facts for more fantasy fun! Or how about these spooky ghost facts if you need something else creepy! We've even got these 50 epic history facts if you'd prefer something more solid!

1. The Word Gargoyle Comes From French

The word 'Gargoyle' comes from the French word 'Gargouille' which means throat or gullet. This is probably because the function of a gargoyle is a water spout! If you look closely at gargoyles, you will see that there mouths are holes designed to help water drain off rooftops - and you may even see them in action! It also sounds a bit like the word 'gargle' - which is exactly what they do!

2. Gargoyles Have Been Around For Thousands of Years

We often think of gargoyles as associated with European churches, but gargoyles of all kinds have been around for a very long time - in ancient Greece they were often lion shaped water spouts, and in ancient China they often took the form of dragons.

3. They're Mainly Associated With Gothic Architecture

If you picture a gargoyle, you probably picture a gothic style dragon or monster. Some of the most famous gargoyles are associated with gothic cathedrals such as York Minster, Notre Dame and churches like Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland.

4. Gargoyles Come in All Shapes And Sizes

Gargoyles are typically dragon like monsters, but a gargoyle can be anything, as long as it spouts water! Some famous examples of gargoyles include dragons, lions, demons, griffins, chimeras, mermaids, wolves, goats, dogs, and even the faces of real people! Would you like to be portrayed as a gargoyle?

5. Some Gargoyles Are Funny

Gargoyles can be scary, but they can also be funny too! Some gargoyles are depicted sticking their tongues out, pulling faces of even picking their noses! And some look like they're people throwing up!

6. In Churches, They Symbolise Evil

Gargoyles serve a couple of functions. Apart from keeping water away from buildings, in churches they also serve to remind church goes of the terror of evil. Seeing a gargoyle in church was meant to make you feel afraid of hell and the devil, and so more devoted to God! It was also believed that they protected churches against evil spirits!

7. There Is An Alien Gargoyle In Scotland

That's right! At Paisley Abbey on the west coast of Scotland, a gargoyle needed replacing, so instead of carving a replica, the stonemason created a gargoyle that looks just like the creature from the film Alien!

8. And An NHS One In England

During the covid19 pandemic, Christchurch priory in Dorset added a special new carving - of an NHS worker wearing a face mask. It's a tribute to the NHS during the pandemic, and is the newest part of a church that's over 1,000 years old!

9. Gargoyles Serve A Specific Purpose

As we mentioned above, gargoyles are waterspouts. Any weird carving you might see that doesn't have a spout is NOT a gargoyle! Instead their often called 'grotesques', and can be seen all over famous old buildings, often pulling funny faces!

10. They're Famous In Film And TV

Gargoyles are famous for lots of different reasons, and they often show up in TV and movies! One of the most famous portrayals of gargoyles is in the Disney film 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame', where they are shown coming to life to help the protagonist. There's also a cartoon called 'Gargoyles', all about a group of nocturnal creatures who look just like the stone carvings!

11. There Are Legends About Gargoyles

There is an ancient French legend about gargoyles. According to the story, St Romanus of Rouen in France had to fight a monster called Gargouille, a creature with bat like wings that breathed fire. After he defeated it, St Romanus cut off its head and stuck in on the church wall to warn off other monsters!

12. The Oldest Known Gargoyle Is In Turkey

The oldest known gargoyle can be found in Turkey, and depicts a crocodile. It is thought to be 13,000 years old! Kayseri, where the gargoyle is located, is also home to gargoyles with the heads of stone lions!