Chimera (architecture)  

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Stryge (1853) is a print by French etcher Charles Méryon depicting one of the chimera of the Galerie des chimères of the Notre Dame de Paris cathedral.
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Stryge (1853) is a print by French etcher Charles Méryon depicting one of the chimera of the Galerie des chimères of the Notre Dame de Paris cathedral.

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

In architecture chimera is an architectural element which takes the form of a fantastic, mythical or grotesque figure used for decorative purposes. Chimerae are often described as gargoyles. Used correctly, the term gargoyle refers to mostly eerie figures carved specifically as terminations to spouts which convey water away from the sides of buildings. In the Middle Ages, the term babewyn was used to refer to both gargoyles and chimerae. This word is derived from the Italian word babuino, which means "baboon."

Bakhtin mentions them in Rabelais and His World in connection to his own concept of the grotesque body:

"[grotesque figures] in the frescoes and bas-reliefs which adorned the cathedrals and even village churches of the 12th and 13th centuries" (tr. Hélène Iswolsky)

Bakhtin then refers to examples in the book Religious Art in France of the Thirteenth Century of Émile Mâle.

"One may well ask the meaning of these creatures and of the stupendous heads or ominous shrouded birds that project from the facade of Notre Dame at Reims. As we have seen, the interpretation of Madame Felicie d'Ayzac does not hold good, for the abnormal fauna of the cathedrals finds its explanation in no symbolic scheme, and here the Bestiaries do not help us. The fact is that conceptions of this kind are of essentially popular origin. The gargoyles like churchyard vampires, or the dragons subdued by ancient bishops, came from the depths of the people's consciousness, and had grown out of their ancient fireside tales. The powerful and sombre side of mediaeval genius found expression in these memories of their forefathers, echoes of a vanished world."[1] (tr. Dora Nussey)

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Chimera (architecture)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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