Staring down at us from the highest points of a Gothic Cathedral are highly animated,
fantastically ugly creatures. They're known as gargoyles. Some art historians
believe these spirit-figures were added to churches as visual reminders of the
horrors of hell. Other scholars believe the creatures were intended to frighten
away evil spirits. Some gargoyles seem to be fertility figures, others are merely
humorous. Finally, these small sculptures serve a practical purpose: they're
often used as rainspouts to channel water off the cathedral roof.
Have your students use their imaginations and design their own gargoyles like
the ones that appeared on Gothic cathedrals.
- Students will research the function of gargoyles in Medieval architecture.
- Students will use clay or paper mache' to carve or form a gargoyle that
will have imaginary, unrealistic characteristics.
- Students will create a freestanding, three-dimensional gargoyle with patterns
to suggest fur, hair, scales, feathers, etc.
- pencil and sketchbook
- paper strips for paper mache'
- paper mache' glue
- balloons or wire for gargoyle form
- clay and clay modeling tools
- cloth or paper to cover work surface
- Have students find examples of gargoyles in books from the library or from
the web sites listed below.
- Have students answer questions on Gargoyle Worksheet.
- Have each student make a list of the animals or parts of animals used in
gargoyles they found in books or on the web sites. Have each student write
the name of a different animal on three sheets of paper and place these slips
into a box. Pass the box around the room and have each student choose 2 slips
- Each student will design a gargoyle combining the two animals on their slips
of paper. Have them draw several pencil sketches using their imaginations
to create a creature unlike anything seen in real life-have them add details
such as hair, fur, scales, and feathers.
Each student will complete a three-dimensional version of a gargoyle in clay or
paper mache' Paper Mache'
How To Paper Mache' Recipes
Have them model or form the basic gargoyle-adding
details, textures, and surface patterns with modeling tools if they are using
clay, or by adding paper or different shaping objects if using paper mache'.
- Have the student s hollow out their model so it will dry more quickly. Have
them work from the back to create a channel through the sculpture that exits
through the open mouth. This channel can represent the passage through which
rainwater would flow in a real gargoyle.
- Does the gargoyle combine more than one animal and does it have fantastic,
- Does the gargoyle have a variety of textures that creates interesting surface
- Does the gargoyle have a hollow from the mouth that (if waterproof) could
be used as water drain on a building?
- Does the sculpture look as though it belongs as a decoration on a Gothic
Photos by leila haj-hassan and Raminagrobis, used with permission.
This assignment addresses these KDE Academic Expectations:
- 1.13 Students make sense of ideas and communicate ideas with the visual arts.
- 2.22 Students create works of art and make presentations to convey a point of view.
- 2.25 In the products they make and the performances they present, students
show that they understand how time, place, and society influence the arts
and humanities such as languages, literature, and history.