A Grotesque Gift – The difference between a gargoyle and a grotesque!

As I write this, yesterday I received a mysterious box from Oxford University and for a split second I wondered what it might be but then I realised it must certainly be a gift from my tourist friend Lorraine in Australia.

We’d been to Oxford as part of our epic North of England tour, Oxford being handily located for a stop-over night when one has just landed from Australia and without wanting to immediately start off on a 6-8 hour car journey.

One of the things that we saw in the Bodleian Library was a fantastic looking Grotesque.  Lots of people get their Grotesque’s and Gargoyles confused or messed up.  Really, all gargoyles are grotesques but with an additional practical function of getting rainwater away from roofs and buildings.

My favourite Grotesque is this one below (at Knebworth House- It was a dark and stormy night) but that would be a bit big for my house and would definitely get in the way of the big-screen television.

Grotesque at Knebworth

Grotesque at Knebworth

Sometimes grotesques were simply made for decoration and to exhibit the skill of the craftsmen and the wealth and majesty of the owner or building.  Sometimes they might even be to ward off evil spirits.

Westminster Abbey Gargoyle

Westminster Abbey Gargoyle

As you can see from this gargoyle above which is one of many at Westminster Abbey, it is still grotesque but with a practical purpose of getting water away from the fabric of the building in a time and place when drainpipes were either impractical or unsightly.

My Grotesque

My Grotesque from the Bodleian Library

And this little fellow above is my surprise gift, a rude Grotesque which is a smaller copy of one that sits high above the streets of Oxford.  Isn’t he cute?  I plan to put him up in my home.  Grotesques come in all shapes and sizes and sometimes in Christian places of worship, disgruntled workmen who believed they were being shortchanged or treated badly by their employers would have a Grotesque point his bum to the people below.  Such insults not quite visible from the floor level and so left undiscovered for centuries!

About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including a #1 seller, I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
This entry was posted in Architecture, Culture, history, Life and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Grotesque Gift – The difference between a gargoyle and a grotesque!

  1. Marilyn says:

    I have never in my life heard of either of these things! I have heard the word grotesque to describe something that is gross! 😂😂😳

    Liked by 1 person

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