The word gargoyle comes from the French word gargouille which means "throat" or "gullet" and that is exactly what gargoyles do: they function as drainpipes to carry rain from the roof of cathedrals, thereby preventing water damage to the masonry, and not incidentally, frightening away evil spirits while doing so. In architectural parlance, if a gargoyle is purely decorative, in other words, non-functional as a waterspout, it is referred to as a grotesque instead.
There are an estimated 5000 gargoyles adorning the cathedral of Notre Dame, some of them much-photographed, well-known, and beloved. However, though the cathedral's construction dates from 1163, the gargoyles weren't actually added until the 19th century, during restoration.
By the time we got to the cathedral, however, my feet were protesting mightily and the coolness of the interior was such a welcome relief that I felt I could sit inside and stare at the Rose Window for awhile, so Anders and the kids left me there to start their gargoyle hunt. I was surprised to see Karin back at my side only about 15 minutes later, when I was expecting that I would be enjoying the relative peace and quiet for an hour or so. "The line is ALL THE WAY around the building," she informed me mournfully. "And it's NOT MOVING," added Martin. I didn't blame them at all for not wanting to stand in the broiling sun (in a highly reflective, dusty area) for unknown hours and still have to climb 400 steps up to the Grand Gallery, after the long walk we'd already had from the Arc de Triomphe.
We decided, not without regrets, that we'd take a pass on the gargoyles for this visit, but on the way back to the apartment, as we crossed one of the many bridges over the river Seine, Anders got out his zoom lens and managed to capture some excellent shots of the gargoyles anyway, despite the distance.
All photos by Anders Ek