The Palace of Monterrey (Salamanca, Spain) is a magnificent building built by the third Count of Monterrey and Viceroy of Naples, Alonso de Acevedo y Zúñiga, in 1539 “in accordance with a design drawn and signed by Father Fray Min. de Santiago and by Ro. Gil”. It is possible that both also drew up the plans for the Palace of Fonseca with the participation of carvers such as Ibarra and Aguirre. Only one wing of the four planned was built, with two large corner towers. It is currently owned by the House of Alba.


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Palace of Monterrey (Salamanca, Spain).


The entire exterior of the palace is decorated with Renaissance grotesques, with a variety of monsters, animals, hybrid creatures and fabulous beings. Above all, the figures of the lion and the dragon predominate as the guardian animals of the house. The lion is also a symbol of power and strength. Alongside this exuberant decoration and the beautiful cresting, we see the peculiar gargoyles of the two towers.


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Palace of Monterrey (Salamanca, Spain).


The gargoyles are generally very deteriorated, many of them broken with built-in metal pipes for drainage.

Nevertheless, there are some very curious and noteworthy gargoyles remaining on the towers. Although some of them are very worn and their typology cannot be clearly appreciated, what remains of them shows their originality and strangeness. Because of this wear, some of them seem to be more ornamental than functional.

There are quite a few demonic figures. There are winged demons with dragon-like bodies and horns. There is also a ram’s head, a figure also related to the goat and its identification with the devil and with lust. In other gargoyles the deformity, the grotesque and even disturbing element is more accentuated. Deterioration makes it impossible to distinguish certain parts of the bodies. They are soft and even unpleasant in appearance, with a surrealist touch; somewhat caricatured figures, a histrionic and buffoonish image of the devil, as is typical of this period. Two of them have women’s breasts, which iconography identifies evil with women, the devil sometimes appearing with breasts hanging down, which is very frequent from the 15th century onwards, as we have already seen in one of the entries dedicated to the devil. We have several examples in Spain; for example, in one of the gargoyles of the Cathedral of Plasencia, or in many of the demons of the dome of Burgos Cathedral; they are truly impressive gargoyles.



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Demon with dragon-like body.


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Winged demon.


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Demon with dragon-like body.


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Demon with horns.


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Grotesque demon.


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Grotesque demon (detail).


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Demon with breasts.


We move on to another type of figures which are also very peculiar. It is difficult to specify which figures we are dealing with due to erosion. They are anthropomorphic, deformed and disturbing creatures. They have a protrusion on their heads, like a topknot that seems to unfurl a cloak that covers their heads and the back of their heads, which element curiously appears on a gargoyle in Lichfield Cathedral (England), a Gothic cathedral built between the 12th and 14th centuries.

In the less deteriorated gargoyles, we can better see the features and details that define them and make them so unique. In one of them we see a woman, wearing a headdress, with a hideous, aged face, sagging breasts and a shuddering, highly expressive countenance. The skin is furrowed and wrinkled. It could be a representation of a witch. The previous, extremely worn gargoyles and wearing such clothing could also be witches or demon-women. These are undoubtedly highly particular and enigmatic images.

The last gargoyle is the figure of a woman, in this case a young woman, with a calmer countenance, showing a suggestive and seductive pose, with her right arm raised to her head and her breasts bare. As we can see, most of the figures have sexual connotations, showing their breasts or, as here, with a provocative gesture.


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Seductive woman.


The gargoyles of the Palace of Monterrey are sinister representations with strong links to the devil, thus belying the idea that such imagery appears almost exclusively in religious buildings with a preventive and intimidating intention aimed at the faithful, which further emphasises its uniqueness. In this case, we are dealing with a civil building, a palace of great iconographic richness. Although the gargoyles are more crudely carved and have short, wide bodies, they are unique, enigmatic, astonishing figures with an expressiveness that makes them unusual and tremendously attractive.



Bibliography consulted

FERNÁNDEZ ARENAS, J., Martín de Santiago y la arquitectura del Protorrenacimiento salmantino, Resumen de la tesis presentada para aspirar al grado de Doctor en Filosofía y Letras por José Fernández Arenas, Barcelona, Universidad de Barcelona. Secretariado de Publicaciones. Intercambio Científico y Extensión Universitaria, 1978.

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