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3 THEORIES ABOUT GARGOYLES OF THE NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL

Photo Credit: https://imgix.ranker.com
By: Pastor Manny
Note: All of the theories cited are based on a non-Catholic website, gotquestions.org
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Personally speaking, gusto ko na yung mga magiging articles ko for this holy week ay related sa Holy Week, but we all know about the fire incident that happened in Notre Dame Cathedral. At the same time, some people are saying that it’s ok for it to be burned because it is a place full of idols by mentioning the “devil” statues in that Church. Is that a legitimate argument? Is it true that these are “devil” statues? And, if it is, does that mean that the Church is advocating idolatry?
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Before that, we have to consider the name of such statues. Instead of calling it “devil” statues immediately, dapat tawagin natin to by what it actually is. This is an example of a gargoyle. A gargoyle is “a stone object in the shape of the head of an ugly creature, usually seen on the roofs of old churches and other buildings [1].” At the same time, it has a specific purpose to the architecture. This is also defined as “an ugly creature or head cut from stone and attached to the roof of an old church, etc., often with an open mouth through which rain water flows away [1].” With that in mind, here are some of the theories that can explain that gargoyles in the Notre Dame Cathedral.
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Theory #1: NOT REPRESENTATIONS OF THE DEMONS
It’s possible that these are not representations of the demons unlike what other people asserted. For example, Got Questions said:
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“Demons are sometimes portrayed as looking somewhat like gargoyles, but it is unlikely that demons would take on such a form, considering their goal of deceiving people into believing them to be angels of light (2 Corinthians 11:1) [2].”
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So, it’s possible that we can say na hindi to representation ng demon since demons don’t look like that. In fact, if they would deceive people, they would take the form that can tempt someone of following them which results to sin. I’m not saying na ito ang most probable na explanation, but this is still a theory.
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Theory #2: DESIGNS AND DECORATIONS
It could be that these statues have nothing to do with religion at all. Pwedeng design lang to na inapply sa building since ito ang main art style at the time that this Church was built. At the same time, let’s not forget that we can’t just judge an art style just because we are born in a different time period. This may lead us to taking things out of context, including the art itself. As what Got Questions noted:
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“Gargoyles are certainly more interesting than undecorated rainspouts, and the symbolism behind them is fascinating [2].”
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If you think about it, if walang gargoyle, it’s just a rainspouts or a gutter na walang design. And, if you let your imagination work, a rainspout or yung alulod can be designed as a mouth. If it can be designed as a mouth of something, then anong “something” yun? Obviously, it can be a mythical creature, a dragon, etc. In fact, some people are even applying this type of statues for their garden design [3].
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Theory #3: DEVIL AND HELL
Ngayon, we can say that these images are representations of the devil. Let’s admit, for the sake of argument, na ito ay representation ng demons as what the anti-Catholics mentioned. However, it doesn’t prove that the Church is advocating idolatry. According to Got Questions:
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“The thinking was that the church offered spiritual safety for those who accepted its authority, but outside the church was spiritual danger. The gargoyles were thus a warning to the populace that it was better to be inside the church than outside [2].”
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It’s possible that these are representations of the evil spirits, but the symbolism can be that this represent that those who are outside of the Church are in danger of hell. At the same time, I find this theory to be the most convincing, personally speaking. Take note na hindi ko sinasabi na kapag hindi ka Catholic, you are outside of the Church. I am also not saying na lahat ng Catholic ay part ng Church because it’s possible that they are living in mortal sin. We can see this illustration in the Bible as well.
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Genesis 3:15
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head,[a] and you shall bruise his heel.”
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1 John 3:10
10 By this it may be seen who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not do right is not of God, nor he who does not love his brother.
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Either someone is of God or someone is of the devil, there is no other way around. So, even if these statues represent the devil, it still proves a theological point that someone who is outside the Church is under the influence of Satan.
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For my last comment, this is a statement from Marian T. Horvat, Ph. D. She is a medievalist, “a specialist in medieval history and culture [4].” According to her:
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“This is also how the medieval artists would depict the torments of Hell, a topic modern Catholic artists avoid for fear of frightening children – and adults…And figures like the gargoyles serve to remind man of the battle he must wage while he fights the good fight on this earth, which is a battleground, not a paradise or utopia.”
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References:
[1] https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/gargoyle
[2] https://www.gotquestions.org/gargoyles.html
[3] https://dengarden.com/gardening/Favourite-Gargoyle-Garden-Statues
[4] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/medievalist
[5] https://www.traditioninaction.org/religious/f001rp.htm
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