Saturday, 21 November 2020


A 'grotesque' scene in Quito


These seabird statues lining the wall of a cathedral in Ecuador are called grotesques, the architectural term for statues found on the side of buildings for ornamental purposes. But hang on… don't we call them gargoyles? Not exactly. Gargoyles are a particular type of grotesque with a handy feature: spouts that carry rainwater away from the building.

Grotesques often live up to their off-putting name, depicting demons or monsters (the word 'gargoyle' comes from 'gargouille', an evil creature from French legend). But the Basílica del Voto Nacional's grotesques celebrate the beautiful fauna of Ecuador: not only seabirds but iguanas, crocodiles, armadillos and more. Although the Basílica is one of the main tourist attractions in Ecuador’s capital Quito, it's been under construction since 1892 and technically remains unfinished. Legend has it that the world will end when it's complete, so no one's really been rushing the job.

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