Paris – Sacre Coeur gargoyles

Posted by jerry on June 18th, 2007 — Posted in Journal, Travel

Most people looking for Gargoyles in Paris go straight to the Notre Dame cathedral where they will find the same gargoyles that are on every postcard. Perhaps it is reassuring that you can actually see the ones in the postcards. But if you head up to the top of the Montmartre butte – in one of Paris’ most fascinating quarters, you will find the basilica of Sacre Coeur (Sacred Heart). This church was built in 1875 to commemorate the the defeat of the Paris Commune in 1871 (those who refused to acknowledge that Paris had been given up to the Prussians.

Paris Sacre Coeur

Its domed roofs dominate Paris from its elevated position. And to reward you for climbing the steep streets and stairways you are greeted by a magnificent building with wonderful stained glass, amazing acoustics for the choir and of course gothic gargoyles.


Gargoyles once served the very practical purpose of funneling water from the roof when it rains and directing the resultant jet of water out away from the foundations where the water could cause real damage. Yes, gargoyles are water spouts with a decorative aspect to them too.


There is a colourful description of how the gargoyles represent a dragon said to have been killed by St Romanus, that lived near the Seine and demanded annual sacrifices of young maidens and seamen. But today it serves as a great spot for people to meet and have a romantic view over Paris that is not the Eiffel Tower.


And there are grotesques too – like this image of a monk






Comment by Izzy


Very interesting, i love the idea of them being water spouts.
very clever.
But.. wouldnt people below get soaked with water if streams were flowing down?

Posted on October 13, 2007 at 2:04 am

Comment by jerry

Heheh – I guess they would get soaked – but the key thing was to make sure that water coming off the roof was directed out from the foundations so that the building would remain stable 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

Posted on October 13, 2007 at 8:15 am

Comment by Paul

Considering that in medieval europe it was customary to hurl the contents of the chamber pot out of the window I should think that rain water was the least of the passerbys worries, indeed a refreshing shower may well be welcome!!!

Posted on September 5, 2008 at 7:19 pm

Comment by jerry

Yeah – but probably not too many chamber pot’s contents being flung from a church though… 🙂

Posted on September 5, 2008 at 7:50 pm

Comment by namirud

why is there so many Gargoyles?

Posted on June 4, 2009 at 6:33 am

Comment by jerry

Gargoyles served a practical purpose – to conduct rain water from the roof and channel it away from the foundations. These days we use gutters and downpipes so they have a more decorative function these days

Posted on June 4, 2009 at 7:42 am

Comment by Jason

I enjoyed your post. I’m glad to see you found the little figure in the corner, as I did this year during a visit. I’ve been speculating that it might be Quasimodo himself, since the basilica construction did not start until 40 years after Hugo’s book was published. But I have no proof of this and you cannot see his back enough to know if it is normal or not.
A note on the rainspouts. While I was there, it rained often, and the spouts made more sense to me. The bizarre heads looked very eerie with the rain drizzling out of them, sometimes it looked like drool. It was awesome to gaze up at them. Must have scared the devil out of the locals.

Posted on July 11, 2012 at 4:42 am

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