Animal Monsters in Gargoyles




In our discussion of the various types of gargoyles, animal monsters were included in our classification.

Animal monsters are hybrid creatures that come from the combination of various animal body parts, and they tend to be fantastical and incredible creations. The huge variety of possible combinations provides an enormous range of figures for the sculptor and their creative imagination.

Within this typology, the most frequent depiction in gargoyles is that of the winged quadruped. The winged quadruped has appeared in all great civilisations for five thousand years. The four feet are similar to the lion, bull or horse and the wings look like those of an eagle or a falcon. This kind of figure first emerged between the Nile valley and Mesopotamia, spreading from there to Persia, China, Asia Minor, Greece and Italy.

The winged quadruped that best symbolises strength and power is the one with lion’s feet and eagle’s wings. In Jewish and Christian symbolism it has a negative meaning: “All fowls that creep, going upon all four, shall be an abomination unto you” (Lev. 11, 20-21).

The winged lion, with a lion’s body and eagle’s wings, is the most popular depiction in gargoyles. Here we see the lion as the king of earthly animals and the eagle as queen of birds; both animals are symbols of Christology and are commonly seen in gargoyles throughout Spain.



Bayonne Cathedral (France)


You can also find hybrids of all kinds of animal body parts, many of which are superb, fantastical gargoyles born of the imagination and inventiveness of expert sculptors.




Bibliography consulted

DELACAMPAGNE, A. y C., Animales extraños y fabulosos. Un bestiario fantástico en el arte, Madrid, Editorial Casariego, 2005.


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