Friday, July 25, 2008
Notre-Dame: Gargoyles vs. Chimeras
A gargoyle is a carved stone architecture element that serves the function of a waterspout to carry water from a roof and away from the side of a building. They are often carved in fanciful forms. In the photograph above, the water trough running the length of the gargoyle is clearly visible.
A chimera, however, is a grotesque carving that does not serve as a waterspout and has only a decorative function. Among the world’s most famous chimeras are those added to the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris during the 25-year restoration begun in 1845. Their style was influenced by the illustrations found in the original edition of Victor Hugo's Gothic novel, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (1831).
The metal spire (flèche) was added atop the nave crossing during the 1845 restoration by Parisian architect Viollet-le-Duc, who included a statue of himself (as St. Thomas) holding an architect's T-square among the apostles adorning the spire at the roof line. The popularity of Victor Hugo’s novel fueled a renewed interest in the dilapidated cathedral and led to a public campaign to raise funds for the restoration.