They were meant to be spiritual guardians barring any evil spirits from entering and doing harm. I find gargoyles and chimeras fascinating and beautiful and had to photograph them at Notre Dam in Paris.
The gargoyles pictured above and below are conduits for rainwater (see the open mouths?) an ancient form of eaves troughs or downspouts. They first appeared in France in the 12th century when the Catholic church was growing stronger and converting much of the population. Most of this population was illiterate so these fearsome images were a constant reminder the church was a place that drove away and protected against evil.
These chimeras have no function but serve the same spiritual purpose of protection against harmful spirits. The only way to see them at Notre Dam is to climb many, many steps (what’s the point of endless spinning classes if not to prepare you for this?) to the tiny two levels of look-offs.
My favourite is below, I love the strength of the back of the head and shoulders guarding the cathedral and looking out over Paris. It is fascinating how much detail went into these works given that they were only to be seen from far below, the artistry and craftsmanship of those anonymous cathedral builders is extraordinary.