Gargoyles Of Higher Learning

While visiting Sydney University the other day I had a walk through the Main Quadrangle. It is a magnificent building. It was built in the initial stages by Edmund Blacket between 1854-9 and not entirely finished until the 1960s. It is made of sandstone in a style known as Victorian academic gothic.

To my utter delight I discovered a lot of gargoyles hanging about on the Main Quad.

You can read about the history of the University gargoyles here.

Here are some of them –

And thank you to Daoine for introducing me to grotesques. According to the University website, a gargoyle is an unusual, fantastic, mythical or eerie carved creature that serves as a waterspout or drain, and is used to drain water from a building. A trough is cut in the back of the gargoyle and rainwater typically exits through the open mouth. It is usually an elongated and long-necked animal because the length of the gargoyle determines how far water is thrown from the wall. Superstition held that gargoyles frightened away evil spirits while serving their practical function.

Similar carved creatures that do not act as waterspouts or drains and are for decorative purposes only are called grotesques.

Here are some more gargoyles and grotesques –

Some of these gargoyles have a distinctly Australian flavour. This one looks like a kangaroo –

My favourites however, are the ones that look a little demonic, a little creepy, but still sort of cute. Like this guy –

Gargoyles at the University. An aid to higher learning? Or a reminder that even in the venerated halls of intellect everything is not as it seems……..??

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37 thoughts on “Gargoyles Of Higher Learning

  1. fantastic photos and fascinating thoughts, also in tibetan mandalas a rule is to have scary-looking creatures in the corners to waylay any bad energies from entering thru the portal. interesting how it takes the frightening creature to scare away demons, but odd how they also look like demons

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    1. Yes, Tipota. I love that point. They look like demons as they are scaring away the demons. Interesting about the Tibetan mandalas – I didn’t know that. This subject is proving to be more and more interesting!

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  2. Wow, lots of fantastic gargoyles and grotesques – I am learning a lot here – I didn’t know about the waterspout thingy (or any of it in fact πŸ˜‰ ). It is amazing they don’t fall off – looks a bit precarious sticking out like that (a feat of engineering). Great post Selma!

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    1. I didn’t really know about it either, Gabe. It is very interesting. The way they make the gargoyles is very interesting too. I might find out a bit more and do a post on that. That’s what I think – how do they stay up there? Pretty strong superglue, I reckon!

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  3. Hi Selma,
    Brilliant photos, and they are all different in their own way. Great post, I am also learning more about these statues, really amazing. πŸ™‚

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    1. It’s been fun learning about them, Mags. Some of them are quite beautifully made. I feel sorry to say I’ve never really noticed them before. I need to pay more attention!

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  4. After your last gargoyle post, I googled where I might find some gargoyles in Toronto – and one of the places is at the University of Toronto. I will get there and shoot some photos for you!

    Love these – and I never knew about the waterspout thing that differentiated gargoyles and grotesques.

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    1. That would be fantastic, Jen. I can’t wait to see them. I didn’t even know about grotesques at all until Daoine mentioned them. Quite fascinating!

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  5. I always associated “gargoyle” and “gargle” to remember that it needed a water component to qualify as a gargoyle.

    xx (tickled I got a mention in your blog πŸ™‚ )

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  6. I love this!

    It illustrates beautifully what you can see when you look up, and don’t just consider the things you see at eye level.

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    1. It’s true. You miss a lot of great stuff just shuffling along. The detail in some of the older buildings in Sydney is just incredible. I am loving seeing it all!

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  7. We have several gargoyle replicas hanging around our house from our Paris trips to Notre Dame, as book ends. Some of your gargoyles look distinctly Australian, like the “cute guy” who resembles a kangaroo.

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  8. Very interesting, Selma. Gargoyles, I knew about. Grotesques, not. But they do look related don’t they? Love them all! Difficult subject to photograph and you have done extremely well to show the detail. Great post!

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    1. I didn’t know about grotesques, either, Adee. It’s all very interesting. Some of them have so much detail. I really need a better lens to get to them. They are works of art, really!

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  9. Once upon an earlier life I attended Sydney Uni, and wondered what place gargoyles had in that setting (that was supposed to replace myth with science). But, all was not as it seemed when that sandstone part was built and to me it is a reminder of how far we have come since superstition and myth ruled our lives…. for some they still do but at least here we are not stoned to death for saying so!
    The kangaroo gargoyle is magnificent in its menace!

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    1. We have come far with regard to supersitition. If you read about some of the things people believed in the MIddle Ages….yikes! ‘Magnificent in its menace’ – I love that!

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  10. I identify with them–every morning when I spy myself in the mirror.

    Thank you for this very interesting tour of Sydney’s special university creatures–and thank you for visiting my site, Selma, and your kind words.

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    1. Hahaha. That is not true at all if your avatar is anything to go by. I am able to emulate some of their expressions, however, particularly when I get the electricity bill. It’s a manic mix of horror and incredulity. LOL.

      It’s my pleasure to visit your site. I love it!

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