Gargoyles

How the cathedral got its gargoyles

After Lucifer had managed to win the soul of the first cathedral master builder by nefarious means, there was a big celebration in hell. The main devil had to keep explaining how he was able to succeed in this trickery, and the big devils repeatedly pulled the ears of the little devils to instil in them that this was a shining example and that one day they should be engaging in such heroic deeds. For the next few weeks, they played games such as "Devil and Sinner ", "Heaven, Hell and Purgatory" and "Frustration!". But after a while, the novelty was past its prime and the little devils started to get bored. Until two of them had an idea. "Hey," said Isataroth one day, "how can we ever experience anything really exciting, if we only ever hang around here in hell?" "Exactly!" said Asmorleon. "If our parents want us to get into mischief, then they have to accept that we are going to go up among people." And Isataroth even suggested: “Just to people? No, if we would like to do something really devilish, then we have to do it in this church… what’s it called – ah yes!

Cologne Cathedral.”

The other little devil seized upon this idea with enthusiasm. In every free moment, they snuck off up to the cathedral, sometimes in groups, sometimes alone. If their parents had known, then they would probably all have been grounded for at least a hundred years, because no little devils were allowed onto the earth unless they were accompanied by an adult. And to be an adult in hell you have to be at least two thousand one hundred years old. But the cathedral grounds were a huge adventure playground for the little devils. The construction was still not completed. Only the choir was already finished and in use. Everything else was partitioned off with large fences, behind which the tradespeople could be seen hard at work. This was just what the little devils had been waiting for: They caused numerous stacks of construction materials to collapse, made simple wooden beams, when they were due to be taken away, suddenly become as heavy as lead, or they appeared in front of unsuspecting workers on the scaffolding in the hope that they might fall to their deaths due to the shock. But as always happens, even these "games" lost their appeal at some point. And again, Isataroth and Asmorleon knew exactly what to do. When the others started complaining that they didn’t want to keep on risking life and limb for something so boring, they said: "Hey, how would it be if we made the church itself a bit unsafe?" At first, the others were petrified. Go into the church? But there was holy water in there. And crosses. And incense. And absolutely everything that is exceptionally unhealthy for devils. But the longer they thought about it, the more tempting the whole thing seemed. And so it didn’t take long until the first ones actually dared to enter through the church door. The little devils soon lost all their timidity and did their mischief in the cathedral itself. Suddenly a wind started blowing out of nowhere. It blew out all the sacrificial candles, the communion wine fell from the minister’s hand, the priest’s robe got caught on the door and was badly torn… The sexton, in particular, who was a kind of caretaker of the church, naturally noticed all the goings on. And he was also clear who had to be to blame. Something like this could only be the work of the devil. Now, the fun for the little ones was just getting started. All day long they teased the poor sexton. They stuck their tongues out at him from the darkest recesses of the cathedral, poked their noses out from behind the pillars and pulled invisibly at his clothing. In desperation, the poor man sprinkled holy water in every corner of the cathedral, said all the prayers he knew and burnt so much incense that some church visitors looked a little green around the gills at the end of the service. But none of this did any good. Again and again the little devils found safe places to hide in the giant church space. The day came when the poor man simply didn’t know what else to do. After once again spending several hours chasing unsuccessfully behind the little monsters, he fell to his knees in the middle of the cathedral, lifted his eyes to heaven as the tears streamed down his face and began to pray: "Please, dear God, I can’t go on like this… Please help me to finally get rid of these terrible pests!" God heard this heartfelt plea and was most intrigued to find out what was going on in one of his most beautiful churches. And, of course, he discovered Isataroth, Asmorleon and the others. Furious, he grabbed the two main culprits by the scruff of the neck like a couple of puppies and berated them: "What were you thinking, may I ask?!" "Nothing …nothing at all really…", they whimpered while at the same time trying on the one hand to free themselves from God’s grasp and on the other hand, to frighten him by their particularly fearsome appearance. "So .. you want to scare me, is that right?" growled God. "That can be your task from now on: You can try and scare people until the end of time.” He cast his eye around the cathedral. Every devil that was caught in his gaze was immediately turned to stone. Isataroth and Asmorleon, in contrast, were released almost gently before he thundered at them: "Go home, and never let me see you here again! And you can tell the parents of your friends that they will only wake up again on the day that Cologne Cathedral is finished. That is generally known to be the Day of Judgement. Until then, in their role as gargoyles they will warn every wrongdoer day and night, through all wind and weather, what will happen to them if they dare to pursue their mischief in my cathedral!”

Since then, Isataroth and Asmorleon have never been seen on earth. It seems likely that the big devils have condemned them to a truly hellish punishment… However, other meddlesome little devils are obviously still at work today. If you look carefully, you can see that every now and then a new gargoyle is added to the cathedral.

 

Source: 
Book title: Kölner Sagen und Geschichten (Cologne´s myths and stories), 4th Edition
Author: Yvonne Plum  
Publisher: J.P. Bachem Verlag Köln

 

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