Friday, 16 November 2012

Grotesques and Gargoyles

The Duomo cathedral in Milan is putting its 135 gargoyles up for adoption.  The scheme hopes to raise the 25m euros needed to restore them and stop them falling off the building onto a passing tourist's unsuspecting head. If you've got 100,000 euros stashed in the right foot of your winter boots and are prepared to donate them  you will have the satisfaction of knowing that your name will be engraved under a gargoyle. 

Alternatively, you could dish out some cash for the preservation of ancient buildings in Rome. Recently, pieces of stone fell off the Trevi fountain. Now, a nice little thank you plaque with your name on it where it  can be seen by all and sundry and caught on camera any time the Trevi fountain is used as background would be just the thing to gob-smack your family and friends. That's much safer than trying to explain away a gargoyle with your name underneath it. And it's much more intriguing than donating to some local charity.  You might even be invited to Rome and given a special public thank you by whoever happens to be prime minister of Italy at the time.  The Colosseum is also in trouble, I believe, and would be equally suitable for having your name held forever in gratitude in the Eternal City. It's something to think about as you leaf through that pile of bank-notes.

 But to get back to adopting gargoyles:  the most important distinction to be made, apparently, is that gargoyles are figures used to drain off rainwater and are not to be confused with grotesques, which although every bit as ugly as gargoyles are in fact meant to protect buildings from evil spirits.  This distinction could be important.  There are almost as many grotesques as gargoyles to be seen on churches and cathedrals all over Europe and it might make all the difference staying dry or getting drenched with rainwater depending on which figure you stand under in a rain shower. 

Here's a thought: if you are visiting Milan and the Duomo cathedral with friends or family in years to come, there is a distinct possibility that when admiring the gargoyles, they might get the idea that one of them is a likeness of you, seeing as how your name is engraved underneath it.  Do you really want to be associated with an ugly water spout?   

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