The Gargoyles of Princeton

Did you know that Princeton University is home to many gargoyles? These grotesque, carved figures of humans or animals reside along the corners of many University buildings. Often they are found along the gutters, acting as water spouts for rain.

On Tuesday, July 10 at 2:00 pm Youth Services librarians Allison Santos and Martha Perry-Liu will lead a tour on the University campus and help you discover these gothic creatures.We plan to highlight 13 of these unusual beings and offer a brief history of each.

Speaking of history, each of these figures has its own name and unique background. For instance, the Unseeing Reader can be found on East Pyne over the east arch, facing Firestone Plaza. This chimere with blindfolded eyes symbolically represents the University’s mission – to open the eyes of those who seek knowledge and understanding.

Many of the gargoyles that are found here are of a more whimsical nature. There’s the Football Runner on McCosh Hall, Monkey with a Camera on 1879 Hall and even Benjamin Franklin makes an appearance on the Palmer Physics Laboratory at Frist Center.

Historians and academics have pondered why gargoyles inhabit cathedrals and other gothic buildings. Gargoyles first appeared on structures during the Middle Ages. Some scholars claimed that they were meant to depict evil spirits that were frozen in stone as they fled churches and cathedrals. Others suggest they were placed there to in fact keep the evil spirits away.

Modern psychologists suggest gargoyles represented the superstitions of medieval times. As life became more secure and famines and plagues passed, the quality of life improved. Medieval men became less superstitious and gargoyles became more comical and fanciful in nature.

We won’t be delving into those notions on our tour but we will give you a little background on the figures and explain why each of the gargoyles resides on their particular building. (Hint: there was a method to the placement of these creatures.)

The Gargoyles of Princeton University tour begins at 2:00 pm at Firestone Library on the University campus. All children must be accompanied by an adult. Please bring water and wear comfortable clothing and walking shoes. If you have binoculars bring them along, some of the gargoyles are perched quite high. Our tour will last approximately one hour. Please visit The Gargoyles of Princeton University for more information.

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