Gargoyle has been defined as a water spout which projects from a roof gutter and is designed to drain or throw the rain water away from the walls of a building. Gargoyle water spouts or rain spouts preceded downspouts which drain water from rain gutters into a drain down pipe or downspout and have a horizontal downspout extension at the bottom end of the downspout that carries the rain water away from the foundation. The word gargoyle comes from the French word gargouille which means throat in English. The words gargle and gurgle also come from the same roots as gargoyle. Gargoyle was also derived from the Latin word gurgulio which means both throat and gurgling, which is the sound of water passing through a gargoyle rain water spout. Gargoyles have been around over 4000 years dating back to ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt. Water spouts in the likeness of eagles, lions and other creatures, some mythological, were very common. Water spouts then began to resemble grotesque or monstrous creatures and were often positioned at each corner of the rooftop. Mythical creatures such as the chimera, centaur and griffin especially, resembling a lion with a curved beak like head and wings, were frequently the models for gargoyle water spouts. There is some speculation that griffins themselves were the early portrayal by sculptors of what a protoceratops dinosaur might look like, as protoceratops fossils had been discovered in ancient times. People's primeval dreams and fantasies could easily conjure up such monstrous images and they actually took delight in both the creation and viewing of such grotesque sculptures. Gargoyles beyond their function as rain water spouts also were believed to protect their building against evil spirits and imagined monstrous beasts. Gargoyle wings supposedly allowed them to also protect the whole surrounding area. Once drainpipes or downspouts were introduced in the 16th century, there was no longer a practical need for gargoyle rain water spouts, yet builders and architects continued to utilize them in their designs primarily as sculptures and carvings serving a traditional, symbolic, religious, folklore or decorative purpose.
Gargoyle rain spouts like the one pictured above were usually positioned at the roof corners of buildings attached to gutters and extending out several feet to throw rain water away from the sides of a building. On a flat roof without gutters, a low wall commonly encircles the rooftop and several openings are cut into the bottom edges of this wall to allow rain water to drain off. These openings are called roof scuppers. Roof scuppers may extend out from the sides of a building thereby also functioning as rain spouts and the gargoyle rain spout above combines the functions of rain spout and roof scupper. Roof scuppers or drain outlets might also empty rain water directly into a wall mounted scupper box, rain collector box, leader head or conductor head below the scupper opening. A downspout drain pipe connected to this collection box, then carries the rain water down to the ground. Throwing rain water off the roof of a building using rain spouts and especially gargoyle water spouts was more prevalent centuries ago, whereas using downspouts or rain chains to drain away rain water are more commonly used today. Gargoyles today of course can be seen and admired in historic architecture and yet gargoyles still maintain a persistent attraction even in some modern architectural designs and decorative accents.
Copper Gargoyle Rain Spout - Roof Scupper
Rutland Gutter Supply & Architectural Copper Work fashioned the gargoyle rain spout pictured above, out of pure copper as a recreation of centuries old gargoyle water spouts which were restored from dilapidated gargoyles taken from the castle pictured above. Rutland Gutter supplies the largest selection of gutters. downspouts and leader heads in the U.S.A. and also the occasional gargoyle rain spout or gargoyle roof scupper to spew rain water, while also providing a distinctive decorative touch. As far as warding off evil spirits and monsters, who knows maybe some bit of that too.