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Gargoyles the Funny and the Grotesque in NYC


Todd Ames
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Igor Shulimovich
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W.110th St. @ Amsterdam/Bway



  • Gargoyles came early into Gothic architecture from the practical need of eliminating corrosive rain water from the foundations and roofs of churches.
  • The first of gargoyles date from about 1220 in Paris.
  • Gargoyles in stone were few in number to begin with and resembled the former bulky wooden ones water carriers.
  • When the decorative value was realized, the quantity was increased until finally there were many merely ornamental gargoyles which never carried water.
  • The motifs used are countless, and include such as dogs, pigs, sheep, cows, lions, horses, bears, foxes, panthers, birds, among the animals; and monks, nuns, knights, wild men, and pilgrims are the commonest human subjects.

W.110th St. @ Amsterdam/Bway

Riverside Dr. @ W. 150-151 St.


  • Gargoyles originated in Europe at the beginning of twelfth century.

  • Because people of those ages were very superstitious, and looked for answers and protection to God and other forms of supernatural beings; Gargoyles became the legendary protectors.

  • These were human/animal statues usually with grotesque appearance and wings.

  • They would become alive at night time while their protectees were asleep.

  • They would fly over the territories to protect and to stand guard if needed.

  • With the arrival of sun light they would return to their places of rest usually on the roof tops.

  • This description is of course is a mythical one, but history tells us that these myths influenced the type of sculpture building.

  • A very famous cartoon called the "Gargoyles" is a big success on national television. It depicts a life of a group of gargoyles who survived many centuries and now live in our time.

Riverside Dr. @ W. 137-138 St.

Riverside Dr. @ W. 137-138 St.

Riverside Dr. @ W. 150-151 St.


Gargoyles are prevalent throughout New York city. They are used primarily as ornamentation and decoration of architectural structures including apartment buildings, office buildings and cathedrals. Here are some from the Upper West Side.


The gargoyles above are in there traditional location - on a Church. These are on the face of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, on Amsterdam Avenue @ W. 112th St.



There are far more gargoyles on New York domestic architecture than on Church buildings. This set above -- which is especially entertaining -- is on a building West 110th St. @ Broadway/Amsterdam.


Riverside Dr. @ W. 150-151 St.

Riverside Dr. @ W. 120-121 St.

West 111 St. @ Amsterdam
Here are some more Upper West Side gargoyles.


The gargoyles on this page all inhabit the Upper West Side. But New York Gargoyles have populated the entire city, and have many friends. Here are links to other Urban gargoyle web sites.

Back to Medieval New York Page

This Page is part of the Medieval New York Web Project, a project of students in the Introduction to Medieval History courses taught by Paul Halsall in the History Department of Fordham University in 1996-1997.

© Copyright to the student creator of each page.

The Internet History Sourcebooks Project is located at the History Department of  Fordham University, New York. The Internet Medieval Sourcebook, and other medieval components of the project, are located at the Fordham University Center for Medieval Studies.The IHSP recognizes the contribution of Fordham University, the Fordham University History Department, and the Fordham Center for Medieval Studies in providing web space and server support for the project. The IHSP is a project independent of Fordham University.  Although the IHSP seeks to follow all applicable copyright law, Fordham University is not the institutional owner, and is not liable as the result of any legal action.

© Site Concept and Design: Paul Halsall created 26 Jan 1996: latest revision 5 June 2023 [CV]