In Legends and Lore we feature interesting historical and mythological tidbits associated with Ravenwood Castle. This week’s Legends and Lore is written by our Assistant Innkeeper Abby Kutscher.
Ravenwood Castle on a typical summer’s day is a hub of activity. Take a stroll through the castle and you will see guests enjoying board games, sharing a delicious craft beer, or relaxing with a good book in the library. Others can be found outside roaming the grounds, exploring the trails, or enjoying lunch on the patio.
You won’t be the only one watching the activity, there are a few creatures who watch over this hubbub day in and day out. No, I am not talking about the innkeepers. I’m talking about the gargoyles.
Several gargoyles can be found at Ravenwood, both inside the castle and out around the grounds. Many castles and cathedrals are depicted as having gargoyles in some aspect of their architecture. But what are these funny stone creatures? Where did they come from and what is their story?
The term gargoyle comes from the French gargouille—the noise of both water and air mixing in the throat. In English, we know this as gargle. Gargoyles were originally designed in 13th century French architecture as a means of disposing of water. Think of them as the precursor to the gutter. Typically, a trough was cut into the back of the gargoyle and the rainwater was able to run off of the roof and through the gargoyle’s mouth. The longer the body of the gargoyle, the further the water was projected. This prevented water from running down the walls and causing damage to the buildings.
However, some gargoyles had another function. As decorations in churches and cathedrals, they were said to ward off evil spirits. According to French legend, Saint Romanus saved his country from a dragon named La Gargouille. After defeating the creature, Saint Romanus burned its body; however, since the dragon had possessed the ability to breath fire, its head and neck could not be burned. Therefore, they mounted La Gargouille’s head on the wall of a church and used it to scare off harmful spirits.
Most gargoyles are depicted as grotesque creatures, but it is said that – like snowflakes – you will never find two that are exactly alike. Some legends say that these stone creatures actually come to life to ward off evil, and that they can communicate with others when the wind or rain passes through their mouths. Other myths claim that the gargoyle is a creature that is stone during the day but comes to life at night. And still others say that gargoyles are alive and can watch over places and people even through their stone exterior.
I suppose we will never really know just what these funny creatures do when we aren’t looking. But one thing is for sure – if they are in charge of protecting Ravenwood Castle, they are doing a wonderful job. Be sure to find and thank them on your next visit!