5 Things you should know about gargoyles.

That's right. Not only do these stone carvings protect the Cathedral from dark forces, they also protect the Cathedral from its arch nemesis — water damage. A gargoyle is essentially an elaborate waterspout that diverts rain away from the Cathedral walls.

Grotesques include all decorative architectural creatures, whether or not they have functioning drainage capabilities. Gargoyles, however, always have drainage conduits. Thus, not all grotesques are gargoyles, but all gargoyles are grotesques.

Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Etruscans, and Romans all employed animal-shaped waterspouts, but the ancestors of the American gargoyles are thought to date back to the 12th century. St. Bernard once disapprovingly wrote, "What is the meaning of these unclean monkeys, these savage lions, and monstrous creatures?" Gargoyles caught on anyway.

While gargoyles appear to cling to the exterior of the Cathedral, they are actually carved from large stones that extend far back into the walls. Gargoyle blocks typically weigh several hundred pounds.

Since Darth Vader does not contain a drainage conduit, he is actually not a gargoyle but a grotesque (see point 2 above). Because he is a villainous character, he has been placed on the dark, north side of the Cathedral.

Interactive gargoyle map.

Mouse over the map to view some of the Cathedral's favorite gargoyles and grotesques...

Located: North Nave, Bay 1, Triforium Level, East Gargoyle
Artist and Carver: John Guarente

A wide-eyed creature with a dog-like head, a prominent nose, humanoid arms terminating in hands grasping its jowls, small wings, and enormous clawed feet. Wide-eyed curiously does not bear a drainpipe.
The Grandsons
Located: North Nave, Bay 4, Triforium Level
Artist: Carl Bush (both gargoyles)
Carvers: Vincent Palumbo (west gargoyle) and Constantine Seferlis (east gargoyle)

Two young twin boys, divergent in behavior. One is angelic with an intact halo overhead and a toy wagon at his feet (west gargoyle). The other is mischievous with a fractured halo overhead, a stolen cookie jar at his feet, and a cookie in hand (east gargoyle).
Located: North Nave, Bay 6, Outer Aisle Level
Artist: Probably Carl Bush
Carver: Unknown

A menacing, ram-like creature with large spiraling horns, large pointed teeth, and cloven hoofs. Rams often symbolize strength — an important characteristic for a gargoyle.
Bearded Bulldog
Located: South Transept, East Side, East Grand Pinnacle, East Face, South Gargoyle
Artist and Carver: Constantine Seferlis

A bearded, floppy-eared bulldog on the run. Bulldogs are characteristically powerful and courageous — fitting traits for guarding a cathedral.
Triple-headed dog
Located: South Transept, South Side, West Grand Pinnacle, South Face, West Gargoyle
Artist and Carver: Constantine Seferlis

A running, dog-like creature with three adjacent heads.
Located: Northwest Tower, Second Floor Level, West Face, North Gargoyle
Artist: Frederick Hart
Carver: Malcolm Harlow

A satyr with a wide-open mouth, tiny horns, pointed ears, furry legs, cloven feet and hands holding musical pipes. The craftsman who worked on this gargoyle dubbed it "Pipes of Pan." It was given in gratitude for the musical programs of Washington National Cathedral. The carver altered the original design somewhat to accommodate the huge mouth. He also added distended neck veins to indicate the energetic and enthusiastic nature of the creature's vocalizations.
Located: Southwest Tower, Pilgrim Observatory Gallery, Northeast Corner, North Gargoyle
Artist and Carver: Malcolm Harlow

The head of a bat with large ears projecting slightly forward, two small nostrils, and a wide-open mouth displaying many small, pointed teeth. Most species of bat emit high-frequency sound pulses and listen to the returning echoes to locate prey and obstacles — hence the configuration of the ears. Like this bat, many bats also have a "nose leaf" that surrounds the nostrils and is thought to influence sound production and echolocation.
Horse Skeleton
Located: Southwest Tower, Roof Level, Northwest Corner
Artist: Jay Carpenter
Carver: Kurt Kiefer

A horse skeleton with prominent eyes and its tongue hanging out of its mouth.
Humanoid Griffin
Located: Northwest Tower, Roof Level, Southeast Corner
Artist: Jay Carpenter
Carver: Franco Minervini

A creature composed of a large vulture-like head with a prominent beak, a winged human body, and clawed vulture-like feet. Both hands grasp a long, open-mouthed snake that is poised to strike the creature’s right jaw.
Curly Locks
Located: Northwest Tower, Second Floor Level, North Face, East Gargoyle
Artist and Carver: Malcolm Harlow

A man with voluminous curly locks, mouth poised as if singing, and large hands caressing a lyre. Three generations of the honoree's family were musicians. The honoree was an organist and choir conductor at Washington National Cathedral for many years. His daughter, the gargoyle's donor, and her two sons were Washington National Cathedral choirboys.
Crooked Politician
Located: Northwest Tower, Pilgrim Observation Gallery, Northwest Corner, East Gargoyle
Artist: Jay Carpenter
Carver: Walter Arnold

A rotund politician with devilish horns. He wears a conspicuous ring on the little finger of his right hand, which holds a cigar - symbolizing shady deals made in smoke-filled rooms. His left hand holds a scale of justice that is blatantly askew. A wad of hundred-dollar bills emerges from a coat pocket. This gargoyle is one of two that drain water through a trough running the length of the top of the gargoyle.
Ugliest Monster
Located: North Nave, Bay 3, Triforium Level, East Gargoyle
Artist: Carl Bush
Carvers: Frederick Hart and Vincent Palumbo

A long-haired, bearded, mustached, four-armed humanoid crouched astride a human head. The hands of its upper arms are cupped behind its ears and its lower arms are crossed. The donor requested "the ugliest monster" in the world, and the artist designed a gargoyle portraying the dual (good and evil) nature of man.
Located: South Nave, Bay 7, Outer Aisle Level
Artist: Carl Tucker
Carver: Edward Ratti

The head and forefeet of an alligator with jaws apart and a smirk. Like alligators in the wild, this alligator is closely associated with water.
Baggy Eyed Dragon
Located: South Nave, Bay 2, Outer Aisle Level, East Gargoyle
Artist and Carver: Unknown

A winged, horned, clawed dragon with bags under its eyes and a tuft beneath its chin.
The Siblings
Located: South Nave, Bay 1, Triforium Level
Artist: William Severson
Carver: Malcolm Harlow

A young boy with a fish in his hand and a puppy and book at his feet (east gargoyle) and a young girl holding a doll with a wide-open mouth (west gargoyle). The dolls mouth was intended to spout water, but the drainage pipe was never installed. Nor does the brother sibling bear a drainpipe. The honorees are the daughter and son of the donor.
Located: Southwest Tower
Artist and Carver: Malcolm Harlow

A particularly intriguing grotesque busily chews the molding on which it perches.
Candid Camera Man
Located: Southwest Tower, Second Floor Level, Southeast Corner, South Gargoyle
Artist: Rubin Peacock
Carver: Malcolm Harlow

A toothy duck adorned with a necktie with a large heart on it, and cards bearing diamonds and spades. Peering out of the duck's mouth is the face of a photographer behind his camera — a touch added by the carver as a spoof on the Cathedral's tourists.
Located: Southwest Tower, Pilgrim Observation Gallery, South Face, West Gargoyle
Artist: Peter Rockwell
Carver: Vincent Palumbo

A young girl with shoulder-length hair, wearing a beret and holding paint brushes in her left hand and a palette in her right. She is kneeling, and her bare feet poke out from beneath her smock.
Darth Vader
Located: Northwest Tower
Design Artist: Chris Rader, Age 13
Model Artist: Jay Carpenter
Carver: Patrick Plunkett

In 1985, National Geographic World held a Draw-a-Grotesque competition. The third prize went to Darth Vader, a villain in the movie Star Wars. The contestant explained, "I read that grotesques are often demons or monsters. Darth Vader is a lot like a demon. He's evil, so I thought he would be a good choice" ...and so did the judges. Darth Vader is located on the dark, north side of the Cathedral because of his dark, villainous character.
Evil One:
Located: South Transept, East Side, East Grand Pinnacle, East Face, North Gargoyle.
Artist: Rosemary Lee
Carver: Constantine Seferlis

A crouching, worried, winged, bearded, naked humanoid holding its fingers in its ears and "representing evil refusing to listen to the word of God."