Category Archives: gargoyles

Adventures in the Lowell Cemetery, Part 1

.
The weekend before Halloween, Yang and paid a visit to the Lowell Cemetery.  It isn’t the oldest burial ground in the city, but it’s probably the most Gothic, designed in the Romantic style, after Mt. Auburn in Cambridge, MA.  The fall colors were uneven in Lowell, as in most of central Mass.  However, we were able to get some lovely background shots, as you can see here.  Yang took this photo of the gate and a beautiful sugar maple next to it, from the inside of the cemetery.

 

The combination of fall colors and crypts and monuments made some wonderfully seasonable shots, especially since the cemetery has some unique and beautifully crafted monuments.  I love the  highlight the orange-flame gives to this crypt.

 

 

 

 

I was especially taken by this pillar topped with a kind of medieval church spire.   The burnt oranges and reds of the scenery create beautiful surroundings in the amber autumn sunset.    I was so impressed with the top of this monument, that I had to get a close up of it.  Definitely reminiscent of something out of the High Middle Ages.
Of course there were also some shots of the trees that were absolutely enthralling, too!

 

 

I was particularly taken with this relief carving of an angel ministering to penitent soul, on a stone nestled by a green pine against a background of soft  orange and golden foliage.

 

 

 

The relief carvings were some of the most striking and beautiful monuments that we viewed in the Lowell Cemetery.  One of the first ones that I noticed was of this angel presiding over the tomb with a cross.  Like many of the statues and monuments, it revealed its antiquity by the way mold, lichen, and moss had blurred its features. I love the way the sinking sun lends an gleam of divinity over the guardian angel.

 

 

The Parker crypt is guarded by two figures carved on either side of the entrance.  I’m not sure who or what the two figures represent beyond sorrow at death. Since we have a major thoroughfare in Lowell called Parker Street, and this tomb is on the elaborates side, the family must have been quite a powerful one in Lowell. No one named Ben, May, or Peter was listed on the site.

 

 

This stone combines media, stone and bronze.  Does the figure represent Death or Fate, quieting our questions and fears about what comes next with a finger to the lips.  I’m not sure if the form is male or female.  It’s more solemn than reassuring – a sober warning to the living that no secrets, hopes, or words escape from those who’ve passed beyond this vale of tears – or vale of soul-making if you’re into Keats.  Or maybe even this is a warning to give up asking questions when you enter into a realm beyond thought and languages as we know them.  Perhaps a close up will help us better read the warning of this eerie being, shroud ethereally encircling it.

 

 

Arguably my favorite monument is the verdigris-bronze piece on the front of this stone monument arching up from the hillside.  Who is buried here?  What is the person’s past?  Beliefs? to inspire such a powerful and eerie figure.  She seems like a sybil spreading her capes in warning – or is she an embodiment of Death come to sweep down on us and enfold us in her flowing, boundless cape?  I really need to do some research on the history of these wonderful works.  Are there any sculptures by famous or venerated artists in this cemetery?  At any rate, she definitely deserves a close up.

 

I have lots more photos to share, however, I don’t want you to succumb to cemetery overload.  This is enough delicious melancholy for now.  But don’t you think this place is so perfect a setting for parts of a Gothic novel?  I already have some ideas “haunting” my brain.  Anyway, I promise you another blog with more pictures soon.

Carven (not craven) Creatures of the Big Apple

 On one of our several peregrinations to NYC, Yang and I were strolling around the upper Westside, near Central Park, where we were taken by the marvelous reliefs and carvings on the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century buildings.  Here’s a record of that intriguing stroll.

 I’m not sure if this is the head of a cupid or a Roman youth.  It looks like wood lacquered over  black paint.  Or it could be masonry painted over.  What do you think?  I love the sheaf of what look like cattails surrounded by scrollwork.

 

The whole side of this building was alternating Classical mythological figures and Green Men – sort of like the melange of classical and native mythos in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  I decided to include only this detail of what looks like Athena flanked by two Green Men.  I’m fascinated by the thought of who decided on this design.  Was it the architect’s idea or did the original owner order the magical artwork?  Was it a signal of the owner’s or the architect’s learning and sophistication?

 

Here, you can see swans above gryphons holding escutcheons, but with no motto or symbol on the shield.  The wider shot below illustrates the art deco design over the entranceway.  Would this building have been constructed in the 1920s or ’30s?

We photographed these reliefs of mythical beasts on one building.  I can definitely identify the creature over the entrance as a dragon.  The others I’m not so sure about at all.

 

I think this might be a form of a gryphon.  It has a lionlike head and paws in front. It is a winged critter,  Yet, are its hindquarters too reptilian?

 

 

 

These next ones have me really scratching my head.  I seem to have heard of some mythic beast with the tail of a snake, but I can’t quite remember what it was.  I definitely see a bird’s wings and claws.  However, what is the head?  A dog?  A donkey? El chupacabra?

This one completely knocks me for a loop.  The head is clearly reminiscent of what all MST3K fans will recognize as Trumpie from The Pod People.  So, is it proof of earlier alien invasions?  Interestingly, the creature doesn’t seem to have both arms and legs, but one pair of limbs that could serve both purposes – unless the wings count as arms/hands – as with bats.

 

I’m not sure if these chaps are supposed to be gods or Green Men, but the fellow in the other picture certainly looks as if he could be Bacchus.  I love the contrast of the red brick with the cream-colored carvings.

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, this shot is particularly interesting for more than one reason.  First, of course, is the graceful carving of the British lions above the entrance.  Especially interesting is the cat in the window perfectly situated above the lions.  However, if you take a closer look at the cat you may exclaim, “Say what!”

That sweep of black fur across the forehead, that little smutch of black fur under the nose.  Good Gravy Train!  The cat looks like Hitler! How embarrassing in front of the other cats.

Worcester Gargoyles

Being a Gothic kind of a gal, I’ve been fascinated by the gargoyles I’ve found on churches in Worcester.  There may be more than these three examples, but these churches caught my eye.

stmatthews4The first example is a single, friendly gargoyle that curves along a corner of  St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church on Southbridge Street.  He gracefully curls his undercarriage toward you, his wings unfurl smoothly, and he seems to offer a friendly smile. stmatthews3 Unlike traditional gargoyles, designed to scare away demons or to embody the sin and monstrosity lurking in the human soul, he almost seems to embody the thought that what we may  judge monstrous, out of our own fears and prejudices, may actually be good and loving.  An interesting thought, right?

 

allsaints1All Saints’ Church has two gargoyle guardians allsaints2on its tower.  These fierce protectors are poised and ready take flight and dive bomb whatever demonic threats to the parish’s spiritual stability may lurk in the environs of  Irving Street, Worcester, Ma. The church has played allsaints3host to the Worcester State Chorale performances, and the acoustics for their exquisite singing  was breath taking!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The final church has a veritable feast of gargoyles, although some have disappeared mysteriously since first I sighted them.  Did they fly away?  Don’t blink, then, Dr.  Who fans!  Originally, the Union Congregational Church and later the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, this building is magnificent.Now it is administered by Preservation Worcester. The church has been likened to a scaled down version of Notre Dame de Paris.  Not as many gargoyles, but a respectable showing nonetheless. gargoyle4Apparently, the missing gargoyle did not fly off (no Mr. Norell around), but was removed and sold to clear debts (see WT&G story.)  The gargoyles that remain are, indeed, something else.  My husband and I took these photos early in January, when streams of frozen ice lent the creatures a special beauty.    We see that this poor chap seems to be feeling the cold intensely.  gargoyle1Perhaps he’s existing multi-dimensionally:  here and on Dante’s ninth level of hell.  Looks as if he has the satanic wings with which to create the freezing air.  He’s clearly not enjoying himself.

Or maybe he’s just guarding the front entrance to the church against the incursion of demons with his pal here.

gargoyle3

 

These are the only churches with gargoyles that I know of in Worcester.  If you know of more, please let me know;  I’d love to find them.  I find it interesting that though the Protestant Reformation slammed the Catholic Church for superstitious, distracting, and gaudy decorations, none of these gargoyle-inhabited churches are Catholic.  They’re all Protestant.  Go figure – just don’t blink.

gargoyle8

 

Mont Saint Michel

When I was a little girl, perusing my geography book in a grade I can’t quite remember, I came across a photograph of and sidebar on the island castle/monastery Mont Saint Michel. Its inaccessibility, magnificence, and antiquity fascinated me.  I remember reflecting that never in a million years would I get the chance to visit such a cool place. It was a place to dream on, though.  1Stmicehl1Well, a million years rolls around sooner than you would ever expect. Last month, I found myself journeying to the mysterious isle, and not being disappointed.

The tide was out when we arrived––otherwise, we never could have crossed to the towering rock island, which would have been surrounded by tide-ripped ocean. Still, no one ought to feel all that much at ease, even with the tide out, for the sands hide quicksand, 2St.Michel2waiting to suck you down. So, stay on that boardwalk!  Then, when the tide comes back in, it’s with a rush that’s earned the nick-name “galloping horses.”

 

 

 

 

The monastery/cathedral that tops the island seems like an organic outgrowth, built into the 3Village1rock, as is the village, circled by city walls, that spirals up narrow, cobbled streets and ancient stone stairs to the  magnificent edifice melded into the summit.

 

 

 

3village2

 

5steps1

5steps2

 

Fortunately, the collapsible stool Yang got me, enabled me to climb almost ad infinitum, with moments of rest to forestall the onslaught of my plantar fasciitis pain.7steps4

 

 

10view below1

It’s a long drop below.

 

 

 

 

9gargoyles2What would a castle/cathedral be without presiding gargoyles?

 

 

13cathedral1

The church where mass was said had beautiful Gothic architecture

 

 

14cathedral2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outside at the top were gardens, which reminded me of the Cloisters in New York, near Fort Tryon State Park.  The Cloisters is clearly inspired by this wonderful aspect of some monasteries.  But how do 15cloiser1these flowers grow so beautifully on an island smack dab in the ocean?  How do the salt air and the harsh winter cold affect them?

 

 

 

Inside, within the monastery that contains that cathedral space is the refectory that fed a 21refectorypassel of monks and their royal guests in ages long ago.  They must have seen me coming and hidden all the food.

 

 

 

 

Crypt:  here, the crypt refers to the original meaning, a hidden place as opposed to a burial 19inside1place.  This was one of the vast chambers in the monastery.  The lack of light in these rooms made taking photographs extremely difficult, so I can’t share the dark, dreamy quality of the chambers that twisted around each other. That’s why the image of the Black Madonna here (a much later installation) isn’t the best.   I could definitely understand why in “The Horla” Guy deMaupassant characterized Mont Saint Michel as a setting that left one susceptible to possibilities of the fantastic and eerie.18Blackmadonna

 

 

 

 

 

24comingdown3

Going down showed us the beauty and magnificence of the curving stone walls, seeming to be an organic extension of the mountain rock.  22comingdown1

 

 

 

And gorgeous flowers and other plants revealed Nature’s tenacity, growing from the slightest cracks in man-made and Nature-made walls.

 

25comingdown4

 

 

 

 

 

26cominingdown3

 

 

 

 

 

Back in the village, we wound down the narrow streets, toward St. Michael’s Church, with the 27downvillage5warrior angel, himself, on guard in statue form by the door.  We visited inside and felt the joy of painting, stained glass, and statuary celebrating wonder at the Divinity (Take that Protestant Reformation!).  We also visited a tiny cemetery of tall gravestones with plots of flowers or colored broken stones enclosed by stone borders.  Finally, we made it to a little cafe for lunch, where I managed to order in French without embarrassing us!  Mmm, savory galettes of jambon, champignons, and fromage, complemented by cafe au lait.  What a wonderful day.28downvillage