Pretty Sells and Ugly Repels? Have You Been to Church Lately?

Etching of Le Stryge from the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Charles Meryon. Image Courtesy of the Herbert F. Johnson Libraries, Cornell University.

Although this is not the most tech-fancy of websites, I was attracted to it because of the topic. This online exhibition of gargoyles was set up by Cornell University’s Herbert M. Johnson Museum of art in 2002. The title, Gravely Gorgeous: Gargoyles, Grotesques and Nineteenth Century Imagination, heads each page with a gargoyle or cathedral image just below it. The exhibition is a collection of photographs and etchings of gargoyles from books, cathedrals, and university campuses. The website is simple, perhaps because it was created ten years ago. Links on the left of each page allow viewers to navigate through the exhibition to learn about gargoyle history and to see images of them. Each page is identical in terms of its background and setup. There is no variety, save for the images below the titles, and the information of each page.

Etching, John Taylor Arms. Image Courtesy of the Herbert F. Johnson Libraries, Cornell University.

There are twelve links total, the titles in their respective orders being: Home, Gargoyle or Grotesque?, The Gothic Revival, Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral, Le Stryge, The Commission des monuments historiques, Grotesque Humor, The Troyes Cathedral Corbel, Gallery of Images, Terms, Events, Credits. The first eight links contain historical information of the gargoyle to help viewers understand its purpose in gothic architecture. By the time people finish reading the historical information, they will know why gargoyles are situated along ledges and roofs of church exteriors. The website shows the origins of the gargoyle as well as its revival in the 19th century. It explains that the gargoyle not only perched itself on roofs and ceilings of municipal buildings, but that it also permeated literature in the gothic genre. The gallery of Images contains photographs and illustrations displayed in the historical sections, just as the terms define specialized vocabulary in the historical links. The events link lists lectures and activities that took place on the Cornell campus and at the Herbert M. Johnson Museum of art from June to September 2002 for students interested in learning more about gargoyles. Finally, the credits link lists people and institutions that contributed to the making of the website.


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