Gargoyle

Not Just Pretty Medieval Faces in Carcassone

I was fascinated by the stone medieval carvings in the city of Carcassone, the largest and best preserved walled city in Europe.   The faces were so expressive that you could only marvel at how talented the stone masons must have been.

This statue is Lady Carcas who supposedly fended off an attack on the city by Charlemagne.  She used ingenuity to convince Charlemagne that Carcassone was stronger than it actually was so that he retreated without attacking the city.  Nice story but it actually is completely fabricated.

Lady Carcas

This statue is a replica of the Virgin Mary which graces the entrance to the Narbonne Gate, the main entrance to the medieval walled city.  She looks pretty ecstatic doesn’t she?  In the original statue which is now located in Carcassone Castle, she is holding baby Jesus.  Maybe she’s just happy about having her hands finally free.

Madonna on the Narbonne Gate

I love these gargoyles on the Basilica of St Nazaire located in the city.  The expressions make me laugh.

Gargoyle
“OMG! Why are my ears bigger than my hands” cried the first Gargoyle.
Gargoyle
“Did you see those fugly shoes?” gasped the second Gargoyle.

Gargoyles are glorified stone water spouts. When the statues were just decorative and didn’t serve any drainage function, they were called chimera.

chimera on Basilica of St. Nazaire
The medieval version of the Three Stooges.
chimera on Basilica of St. Nazaire
Even dental intervention wouldn’t have made this face attractive.

The statue of this lady in the Basilica of St. Nazaire is simply beautiful.  Of course, it could be a very pretty man with flowing locks as well since I think maybe the statue is wearing a suit of armour. I don’t know though – those hands look too pretty to ever have grasped a sword.

lady in st. Nazaire Basilica
“Moi? Beautiful? Why thank you kindly sir.”

In the Castle of Carcassone, there is an exhibit of statutes and other decorative stone work that has been salvaged from nearby ruins.

Doesn’t this man look like he is wearing a bad wig?  Or maybe it is a medieval combover.

face at carcassone castle
I am not amused.

This person looks really happy with life, or maybe they are just happy to be having a particularly good hair day.

Face at carcassone castle
Smile, you’re on stone.

Who knew medieval faces could be so expressive?  I expect those stone masons had fun creating these faces.  I definitely had an amusing time ascribing thoughts to their faces.

Which one is your favourite?  My favourite will always be the gargoyles.

Published by

Shobha

I am an American expat based in London with my travel-loving family. I write at Just Go Places Blog about luxury, cultural and family travel.

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