Gargoyles scare the
evil away in Covington

The most bizarre and fascinating element that adorns the St Mary's Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption are those 26 sinister gargoyles. They're enough to give you a nightmare!

Often gargoyles were used to assist the Catholic Church in conveying messages to the common people.

In architecture, a gargoyle is a carved grotesque with a spout designed to convey water from a roof and away from the side of a building thereby preventing rainwater from running down masonry walls and eroding the mortar between.

That goes for church buildings, too, but here's two more reasons for these monsters:

Often gargoyles were used to assist the Catholic Church in conveying messages to the common people. Since literacy was uncommon well into the 1900s, images were the best way to constantly convey ideas.

They were used as a representation of evil. It is thought that gargoyles were used to scare people into coming to church, reminding them that the end of days is near.

It is also thought that their presence assured congregants that evil is kept outside of the church's walls

Close-up of the little monsters at the Covington basilica
via Kenton County Public Library.

In the medieval world many creatures had mystical powers attributed to them. Also, human qualities were sometimes ascribed to specific animals -- that is, the animals were anthropomorphized. This was especially common for pagans, and using these ideas helped conversion to Catholicism.

Now, let's face it. All that hocus pocus was long over before the Cathedral in Covington was built. So what's the deal?

The cathedral was started by the Diocese of Covington's third bishop, Camillus Paul Maes, in 1894. The cathedral project was terminated in 1915 and remains incomplete to this day.

The exterior was inspired by the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Thus the gargoyles. Construction of the Cathedral in Paris -- which is three times bigger than Covington -- began in 1163 when monsters atop church buildings were all the rage.

And if you're going to copy the famed church in Paris, you better include those scary creatures and we're glad they did. The Basilica of the Assumption wouldn't be the same without them.

[ Wikipedia helped with preparing this article ]

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