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How did these pop culture gargoyles end up on a medieval church in France?

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Stone carvings of the monster from the movie 'Alien' and other 20th-century grotesques now grace a 15th-century chapel in Brittany.

The 15th-century Chapel of Bethlehem in Saint-Jean-de-Bouiseau, France, had seen better days. The gargoyles that had graced the pinnacles of the tiny Gothic church had long ago disappeared and the building was practically a ruin.

SelbyMay | CC BY-SA 3.0

In 1993 the French government hired Jean-Louis Boistel, a stonemason who had worked on many other historic restorations, to restore the church and its 28 gargoyles. Since there was no record of what the chapel looked like other than a few drawings from the 19th century, Boistel was told to use his imagination in creating the stonework creatures.

Ol lO | CC BY-ND 2.0

The result: Among the 28 gargoyles are the monster from Alien; monsters, good and bad, from the movie Gremlins; and Goldorak, a robot from a Japanese anime television show.

The grotesques draw on mythology, Christian iconography, and popular culture to convey a symbolic message. The southeast pinnacle of the church, for example, stands for “memory” and features symbols of the four Gospels of the New Testament (the angel, the bull, the eagle and the lion). The southwest pinnacle symbolizes “the unconscious,” with Goldorak representing righteousness and a nasty-looking Gremlin representing evil.

When the innovative plan was presented to the town council of Saint-Jean-de-Boiseau, it was not well received, but was endorsed in the end, thanks to the enthusiastic support of the town’s youth, who rallied behind the project.

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