On our trip to Perpignan, in France, this summer, we discovered some fabulous gargoyles in the city.
On a stroll round Place de la Loge we saw the fantastic Loge de Mer, a medieval building dating from 1397 and extended in 1540, which was used for activities connected with maritime trade.
A magnificent example of Gothic secular architecture, the building follows the model of the exchanges you can see in Catalonia and Aragon. The building next door is the Hôtel de Ville or town hall.
Loge de Mer (Perpignan, France). Image 1.
In this section of gargoyles, I’ll show you the six splendid gargoyles that surround the building. A few are quite badly eroded, but you can still see the figure and some interesting details.
They are animal monsters, winged quadrupeds. In some you can see details like protuberances on the neck and chest, a drooping beard or fleshy chin, a goatee style beard and bat’s wings, all features that give them a demonic appearance.
One fantastic beast in particular stands out – a superb gryphon. A gryphon is a mythological creature, half eagle (the upper part) and half lion (the lower part). Depictions of gryphons date back to Antiquity (Babylon, Persia, Ancient India). Pliny (1st century) says they were originally from the land of the Scythians (northern Russia) and Aeschylus (6th-5th century B.C.) says they were from Ethiopia. Their two halves bestow on them all the attributes of the lion (king of the land) and the eagle (queen of the air). In Greece and Rome, they were considered to be tomb guardians; for the Greeks they were also an animal of light, and this is why they’re sometimes shown sitting at the feet of statues of Apollo. In Christian symbolism, the gryphon embodied both these natures (the eagle and the lion), making it one of the best emblems of the dual nature of Christ: the eagle head and chest represent the Saviour’s divinity and the lion’s body represents his humanity. The gryphon is also a symbol of wisdom and guardian of treasures, especially of emeralds. In terms of its negative powers, the gryphon was often used to represent Satan because of its raptor’s beak and its predator’s claws.
A good example of magnificent gargoyles of enormous sculptural value and beauty.
Winged quadruped. Image 2.
Winged quadruped. Image 3.
Winged quadruped. Image 4.
Quadruped. Image 5.
Gryphon. Image 6.
Winged quadruped. Image 7.
CHARBONNEAU-LASSAY, L., El bestiario de Cristo. El simbolismo animal en la Antigüedad y la Edad Media, vol. I, Palma de Mallorca, José J. de Olañeta Editor, 1997.