The Hippo Gargoyle of Laon

Among Laon Cathedral’s sculpture, I thought one gargoyle deserved a post of its own. Here is the façade of the cathedral

And here is a gargoyle of a hippo, of a perhaps surprising degree of realism (to me anyway)

The realism is all the more surprising as, according to this, the first hippo seen in Europe since Ancient Rome was Obaysch in 1850 (compare the Laon hippo with Albrecht Durer’s 1515 rhino, not admittedly drawn from life)

In “The Desire”, James M Houston writes:

Humour has a lot to do with humility, in that it shows up the incongruities of human life. Nothing is more absurd than humanity trying to play at being God. Perhaps that is why there are gargoyles on the cathedral roof, as well as at the carved ends of the pews, to remind worshippers that human pride, and even taking ourselves too seriously, is really comical. As Malcolm Muggeridge once observed, it is significant that modern high-rise office blocks don’t have gargoyles. Compared with the court jesters and other evidence of comedy in medieval life, modernity takes itself very seriously!

2 Thoughts

  1. Interesting thoughts. If high rises had gargoyles, they’d at least be a little interesting. On the other hand, do you think modern sports mascots could qualify as gargoyle-esque? Sports is quite the religion among many people.

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    1. I liked this quote from the Scholarly Skater blog’s section on gargoyles: “his is likely because of their quirky appearances, as well as the fact that they have consistently defied any generally-accepted interpretation. As a college student, I remember being told that attempting to find a convincing explanation for gargoyles, where so many academics have already failed, would be a fool’s errand.” – you can find this here https://ascholarlyskater.com/gargoyles-and-grotesques/

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