Today’s post is dedicated to the gargoyles of Blois (France). On our trip to the city to collect the gargoyles of the Château Royal, we took the opportunity to visit the cathedral and there we discovered other magnificent and unique gargoyles.
Saint-Louis de Blois cathedral of was rebuilt in 1544 and, after a hurricane, it was rebuilt again between 1680 and 1700. Since 1697 it has been the seat of the bishopric of Blois, and since 1906 it has been listed as a Historic Monument.
In addition to the gargoyles, there is a curious variety of grotesques or chimeras that decorate some areas of the cathedral. They depict animals, humans, demons with membranous wings and crests, or vegetable figures with a peculiar type of leaf in the shape of a lettuce.
The first thing to note is the typological variety of this group of gargoyles. Although there are not many of them – there are barely more than twenty – the diversity of themes represented is noteworthy.
We will now show you these images of gargoyles, and we will do so by typology. We hope you enjoy this fascinating repertoire.
The first typology we are going to look at is that of animals which, as always, we will call real animals to differentiate them from fantastic or mythological animals.
A gargoyle representing a formidable griffin, with the beak and plume of a bird and the body of a lion, is striking for its admirable sculptural carving. The griffin is the mythological animal most often depicted on gargoyles.
The animal monster or hybrid composed of various animal parts has an interesting representation in the cathedral. These are winged dogs, lions and rams, and in them we see unique characteristics such as a lank or frayed mane, fur on the neck, drooping or upturned ears, and fangs or a tail curled around the leg. In one of them we see human teeth and fur with loops on the neck and trachea.
Another peculiarity, which is sometimes seen in the figures depicted on gargoyles, is the inclusion or exclusion of elements typical of a typology, in many cases probably to the sculptor’s taste, such as the ram figures without double hooves.
Within the demonic typology we have magnificent gargoyles, not only stylistically, but also for the variety of characteristics that can be appreciated. On the one hand, there are winged quadrupeds, several are clearly winged dogs and some have leonine manes, and all of them have elements typical of the demon typology: double hooves, horns set backwards, fangs and wrinkles in the mouth showing ferocity and pointed ears. As winged quadrupeds, they could perfectly well be considered animal monsters. However, we have considered them to be demons because they have double hooves and some other elements of the demonic typology; in this case we cannot rule out the possibility that it is a whim or intention of the sculptor, without any thematic pretension.
We leave for the end a fascinating gargoyle: a satyr with a musical instrument (horn type).
As general characteristics, Blois Cathedral has gargoyles with robust and imposing bodies, expressiveness and a touch of dynamism that can be seen in a certain posture of the legs. We also see detail in some of the figures, such as eyelids and pupils.
As you have seen, they are impressive and beautiful gargoyles that are worth seeing if you pass through this beautiful French city.
Doctora en Historia del Arte. Investigadora especializada en el estudio de las gárgolas.