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A nineteenth-century grotesque at Notre Dame de Paris. Photo by Sharon Mollerus via Flickr [Creative Commons].
Today’s grotesque is a true classic. The gargoyles of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris are neither the oldest nor the most interesting of their kind, but they have certainly become the most famous. The interior and exterior of this church, which was a major milestone in the history of Gothic architecture, were both rather creatively restored by Gothic Revival proponent Eugene Viollet-Le-Duc (1814-1879) in the nineteenth century. Part of the restoration process included the creation of many new gargoyles and grotesques, so many of the building’s most iconic creatures, including this one, aren’t truly medieval. That hasn’t stopped them from capturing popular imagination through photographs, literature, and other popular culture.

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