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A Grotesque Tour



Princeton University. Property of the Trustees of Princeton University.

Source: Gargoyles of Princeton University, Princeton University, 2011

The following is the introductory page text to the Little Book entitled Gargoyles, a grotesque tour of the campus.

For centuries scholars have asked why gargoyles1 inhabit their most solemn churches and institutions. Fantastic explanations have come down from the Middle Ages. Some art historians believe that gargoyles were meant to depict evil spirits over which the Christian church had triumphed. One theory suggests that these devils were frozen in stone as they fled the church. Supposedly, Christ set these spirits to work as useful examples to men instead of sending them straight to damnation. Others say they kept evil spirits away.

Psychologists suggest that gargoyles represent the fears and superstitions of medieval men. As life became more secure, the gargoyles became more comical and whimsical. This little book introduces you to some men, women, and beasts you may have passed a hundred times on the campus but never noticed. It invites you to visit some old favorites. A pair of binoculars will bring you face-to-face with second- and third story personalities.

Why does Princeton have gargoyles and grotesques? Here is one excuse:

… If the most fanciful and wildest sculptures were placed on the Gothic cathedrals, should they be out of place on the walls of a secular educational establishment? (“Princeton’s Gargoyles,” New York Sun, May 13, 1927)

Here is the delightful, complete "grotesque" tour of the campus