Check out our new Information Sheets! These are in Adobe .pdf format and will print out nicely from your computer.
Gargoyle Sheet (300k) a bit of the history of gargoyles and explains the different between a gargoyle and a grotesque Click Here
Griffin Information Sheet (1meg .pdf) information on griffins. Click Here
Gothic Architecture Sheet (550k .pdf) that has a bit of the history of gothic architecture Click Here
Green Man Information Sheet in (600k .pdf) contains photos and information on the green man. Click Here
Following is some information taken from the book "The First Fossil Hunters"
Fossil-hunting scientists are raving over evidence that some ancient legends of monsters are based on pre-Christian nomads' discovery of dinosaur bones in central Asia, hundreds of years before the time of Jesus.
For example, the myth of the griffin, a winged lion with a birdlike beak, was apparently inspired by the nomads' discoveries of fossilized bones of protoceratops, an animal that existed more than 65 million years ago, according to "The First Fossil Hunters: Paleontology in Greek and Roman Times" by Adrienne Mayor.
The book has thrilled paleontologists -- researchers who study fossils -- by showing that their science dates from ancient times, much longer ago than previously thought. Mayor shows in her book that ancient Greek and Roman researchers thousands of years ago collected numerous fossils of large extinct mammals and displayed them in temples and museums. "There they identified fossils as the relics of giants, heroes and monsters of myth," she says. Some ancient writers argued that the enormity of the supposed "human" remains proved the human race had since "degenerated" or "run down," becoming smaller and weaker.
Mayor "has uncovered a barely noticed source for many of the myths of the Old World, and for the first time has assembled in an orderly way the evidence for early man's discovery of and explanations for fossil remains," says classical art historian Sir John Boardman of Oxford University. Thanks to her analysis, he says, many ancient "texts, sites, and pictures will never seem quite the same again."
The ancient bones' biggest impact was on popular culture. For example, many ancient Greek vases of the seventh through fifth centuries B.C. depict griffins.
Photograph taken from the book showing a protoceratops (top) and a griffin (bottom) along with a griffin plaque from our store.
Mayor says she'll never forget the moment when she began to suspect that the ancient images of griffins were based on reports of the discovery of protoceratops bones. "I was on the Greek island of Samos, not too far from the coast of Turkey. I was visiting the archaeological museum there, where I saw hundreds of bronze griffins that had been excavated from the temple on Samos," she said in a phone interview from her home in Princeton, N.J. "The earliest depictions of griffins looked really gnarly and brutish. It looked as if the artist were trying to portray something real rather than mythological," she said. "And then in a flash, I realized that they looked like modern reconstructions of dinosaurs in a museum." Protoceratops, which lived in the twilight of the dinosaur age more than 65 million years ago, had a beak like a bird. At maturity, it was typically 8 feet long, about the size of a lion. It also had a bony "frill" at the back of the neck that the ancients could have mistaken for the roots of wings, she says.
What is a gargoyle? Where did they come from? Many people believe that gargoyles were developed by medieval architects and stone carvers to ward off evil in an imperfect world. Whatever their purpose, they adorn countless cathedrals in the world. They've inspired curiosity, awe, laughter, and occasionally fear. Some say the first known reference dates back to 600 A.D.
What is known about gargoyles, is that the word is derived from an old French word gargouille, meaning throat. The English word gargle is derived from the same word. Originally a gargoyle was considered a waterspout, directing water away from a building. Technically an architect calls a waterspout on a building a gargoyle. If a stone carving does not carry water and has a face that resembles a creature, it is technically called a grotesque. A strange beast which combines several different animals is called a chimera.
France has over 100 cathedrals, most built in the middle ages, with Notre Dame being the most famous. It's true that in the Middle ages, the populace, for the most part, couldn't read and write. Churches used awesome visual images to spread the scriptures, such as gargoyles, stained glass, and sculpture. Some believe that gargoyles were inspired directly via a passage in the bible. Others believe that gargoyles and grotesques do not come from the bible, but are inspired by the skeletal remains of prehistoric beasts such as dinosaurs and giant reptiles. Others will argue that they are the expression of man's subconscious fears or, that they may be vestiges of paganism from an age when god would be heard in trees and river plains. Know, also, that the churches of Europe carried them further into time; maybe to remind the masses that "even if god is at hand, evil is never far away..." or "possibly to act as guardians of their church to keep the terrible spirits of evil away."
A legend has it that a fierce dragon named La Gargouille lived in the river Seine near Paris. The fierce dragon devoured ships and men. The village was saved by St. Romanis, proving the might of Christianity. After the battle, the creature was set ablaze. Its body was destroyed but its head and neck survived ...which was mounted on a building. This practice spread and La Gargouille may have become the model for gargoyles. Gargoyles may have developed if the Medieval society didnŐt feel that totally in control, gargoyles being an attempt to define or embody evils of the world into manageable elements.
Some believe gargoyles represent deep rooted elements within human nature ... the love of the grotesque, possibly related to our desire to view horror movies, etc. The word gargoyle is derived from the French word gargouille, meaning throat. The English words gargle, gurgle and gargoyle are derived from gargouille. Originally a gargoyle was a water sprout, mounted on the eve and directing water away from a building. If a stone carving carries no water and has a face or resembles a creature, these are technically called a grotesque. A Carving which combines several different animals is called a chimera. As the populace in the Middle Ages ... for the most part ...were illerate, churches used visual images, such as gargoyles, stained glass, and sculpture.
Some believe that gargoyles and grotesques are inspired by the skeletal remains of prehistoric dinosaurs and other fossils. Many gargoyles are similar to the legends and figures of the ancients Celts, such as the Green Man or Jack of the Green ... the god of tree worship. Artists who carved these were inspired by their culture. Gargoyles can be dragons, men, cats, bats, frogs, serpents, and countless others. They are still being carved today, many with a modern theme such as a whimsical figure pointing a camera down below. Gargoyles have been with man for hundreds of years, and they still seem to catch and inspire the imagination of modern society. Maybe they do, indeed, have a spirit of their own!