The Gargoyles of Washington D.C.

Here in San Diego, we have a section of town called Old Town. Not because it’s particularly old, but because it’s old to us. See, here in San Diego, any structure more than 50 years or so is old. So whenever I get to travel to the east coast, I love getting a chance to see all the old(er) architecture. I think it’s something people from the east coast see so often, they forget just how beautiful it can be. During my time in Montreal, I loved walking around and taking pictures of the buildings built right around 1800 or so. My favorite parts of these buildings were almost always the gargoyles and grotesques 1 lurking at the corners. I passed by Montreal’s Christ Church Cathedral on my first walk to work and was able to snap a picture of these guys.

 

It was to my surprise and delight then that on my first trip to Washington D.C. I would discover that our nation’s capital was home to a collection of these little guys as part of the National Cathedral.

Taking 83 years and several architects to build, the National Cathedral is the sixth largest cathedral in the world and is a sight to behold (even for a non-religious person such as myself). The fun part though, is finding the many gargoyles and grotesques perched all over it. There are 112 gargoyles and over 1000 grotesques, but unlike most cathedrals these were carved post 1900’s. So while you still have the typical skeletons, demons and dragons seen below..

The "Baggy-Eyed" Gargoyle

 

The "Decay" gargoyle

 

… you also have things like angelic and bratty grandkids, evil politicians, and even dentists.

"Dentist"

"Politician"

There are a lot of these things though… more than I could ever post here. Fortunately someone else already has. Follow this link to see the whole list of gargoyles, but I do need to mention one last thing about the gargoyles of Washington D.C. The thing I love most about the National Cathedral gargoyles, the thing that really puts this cathedral over all others, is the fact that on the Northwest Tower 2 they have Darth Vader himself.

This was the result of a contest in the 80’s in National Geographic World Magazine where children were allowed to send in their ideas for gargoyles. Christopher Rader scored third place with his Vader drawing and had it… Wait a minute, I was kid in the 80’s and I could draw! How did I miss out on this? Man, if I had known I would have drawn the following picture. Not only would it have scared away evil spirits 3, but it could have served as a warning for me to never grow a mustache.

  1. Grotesques are basically gargoyles that do not serve as a waterspout
  2. a section that never gets direct sunlight… that’s right, it’s always on “the dark side”
  3. and the opposite sex

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