Gargoyles were an early form of architecture originally intended as waterspouts and drains to keep rain water from running down masonry walls and eroding the mortar between.
Some of the earliest known forms of this type of architectural element have been found in ancient Egyptian, Roman and Greek ruins although they are most commonly associated with Medieval Gothic architecture. Early gargoyles were made of terracotta. Later figures were carved of wood, with a complete shift to stone by the 13th century.
The term gargoyle, comes from the Latin gurgulio, and the Old French gargouille, meaning "throat" but also describing the "gurgling" sound made by water as it ran through the statue's mouth.
In Architectural terms only the creature that serves as a water spout is called a Gargoyle, otherwise is it known as a Grotesque. A grotesque is a sculpture that serves only an ornamental or artistic function.
Superstition held that gargoyles frightened away evil spirits while serving their practical function. A gargoyle serves as a protector that wards off any evil spirits that may attempt to corrupt a castle, a church, or a residence.
Many medieval cathedrals displayed gargoyles. The most famous examples are those of Notre Dame de Paris.