The incredible gargoyles of Biltmore Estate are a feature that visitors often overlook, but these works of art are worth noting, for each one is unique. Carved by hand, there are hundreds of them all around the house. They adorn column capitals, walls, and rain gutter downspouts and come in human and animal form. Let’s have a look around.
The detail is just incredible. Not only is the column’s capital amazing, note the inverted acorns along the shaft:
This column has lancets along the shaft and winged creatures on the capital:
A closer look at the capital:
By the way, these are technically grotesques, not gargoyles. A true gargoyle is a downspout, and I do have photos of some to show you later.
George Vanderbilt, the railroad tycoon who built Biltmore, and his architect Richard Morris Hunt, designed the house in the style of the French chateaus and Gothic cathedrals Vanderbilt had seen in his travels to Europe. With the heavy presence of gargoyles there, it’s no wonder they appeared on his grand home in Asheville, North Carolina.
This pilaster has seahorses, which I don’t think are grotesque at all:
(A pilaster is a half-column that adorns a wall, and gives the appearance of a column, but doesn’t function as a supporting column.)
Look at this amazing column, can you imagine creating this?
A dragon tops one side of this huge column!
There is another seahorse on the other side:
Let’s step away from the house for a moment, to the grand Esplanade, a twin set of steps and carriage ramp that leads from the hill to the lawn and house below. Adorning the retaining wall are a pair of these fountains; note the water carved in stone behind the fish:
Gargoyles were developed as a way to make the necessary downspouts more decorative on enormous Gothic cathedrals, and it’s believed the grotesque designs were chosen to scare away evil spirits. Non-functioning gargoyles, or grotesques, were later added and soon they all became known as “gargoyles.”
Back at the house, each window and door is topped with pairs of fanciful creatures, like these elfish men:
This little guy is my absolute favorite, with his little toes. He’s planning mischief.
On one of our visits to Biltmore, we took the Rooftops Tour, where we were able to see more grotesques and gargoyles up close. There are two in this next image, a quickie cell-phone snapshot, can you spot them? (Click on the picture to enlarge it if you’d like to.)
Finally, we come to our true gargoyles, actual downspouts that direct rain from the roof. In this first image, the lower one is a gargoyle, the upper one is a grotesque who has an actual “bum” – my kids thought this was hilarious, “we’re being mooned by a gargoyle!”
This next one is back down at ground level, and it is quite shocking looking right up into his mouth!
We’ll have to leave it here, but I hope I’m able to make another trip back some time, and get photos of lots more Biltmore gargoyles and grotesques. I hope you’ve enjoyed these fanciful, whimsical works of art as much as I do.
Coming soon on We Call It Junkin.com:
The Perfect Coffee Table For Your Porch
Autumn Tree Cake – No Cake Decorating Skills Required!
If you like what you see here, why not…
To read my previous article on Biltmore Estate, go here.
I’m sharing this with the following websites, check them out:
- From My Front Porch To Yours
- The Brambleberry Cottage
- Jann Olsen for Share Your Cup
- Oh The Places I’ve Been
- Savvy Southern Style
- Travel Photo Discovery