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Gargouille (Mythology)

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The Gargouille (also Garguiem, as gargoyle from a word for "throat") is a dragon from the legend of Saint Romanus of Rouen. The word gargouille means 'gargler,' referring to this dragon's ability to spew water from its mouth. The monster does not figure in the older account of the saint's life, being recorded for the first time in 1394.

Description and Legend

The Gargouille was a terrible sea serpent who, one day, emerged from the Seine River and began to spew water about the country side. The Gargouille then created a great tidal wave, and whatever the waters did not kill, the dragon devoured for its meal. 

The archbishop of Rouen, St. Romanus, intended to put a stop to the problem. The Gargouille lived in a cavernous lair in the banks of the Siene River specifically on the left bank of the Seine, at Rouen were wild swamps through which the creature rampaged, and he intended to travel there to stop the dragon from continuing its plague. No one wished to accompany St. Romanus on his quest. Instead, he took with him two prisoners condemned to death, or in some versions, one prisoner condemned to death who volunteered to go and had nothing to lose. St. Romanus travelled to the lair of the Gargouille with his aid or aid(s), and there the beast attacked ferociously. All that it took to calm the dragon was the symbol of the cross made by two of St. Romanus' fingers. At the sign, the dragon fell docile, and the archbishop and his aid(s) bound the dragon by the neck with the archbishop's stole like a leash and led it, quiet as a lamb, back to the local township.

The people condemned the dragon to die by fire, since it killed so many with water. The people then burn the creature, and they cast the immense pile of ash it left behind into the Seine River from which the dragon had come or, alternatively burned it on the parvis of the cathedral. Ever since then, the drains that divert the rainwater from the roof of a church building have been decorated as monstrous entities and been called gargoyles.

This legend was the origin for the bishops' privilege (lasting until 1790) to pardon one prisoner condemned to death each year, by giving the pardoned man or woman the reliquary holding Romanus's relics in a procession.

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