The Grotesques of the Chapel of Bethlehem – Saint-Jean-de-Boiseau, France - Atlas Obscura

The Grotesques of the Chapel of Bethlehem

Saint-Jean-de-Boiseau, France

Do these monsters look familiar? The gargoyles on this church are all from pop culture. 


The Chapelle de Bethléem (Saint-Jean-de-Boiseau) is a jewel of late middle ages Gothic Architecture and, like many buildings in the area, can attribute its deterioration to Brittany’s capricious weather.

It was practically a ruin by the 1990s, with all the pinnacles needing to be replaced. The Batîment de France architect Gwenole Congnard assigned the task to stone carver Jean-Louis Boisel, who also had to manufacture the 28 grostesques which had been missing for centuries.

Innovative Boisel envisioned something aesthetically questionable but decidedly bold: Instead of choosing traditional medieval forms for his pieces, he used figures of pop culture. Monsters from Gremlins including cuddly Gizmo, as well as creatures from Alien act as modern chimeras, standing for the symbolic values usually attached to the pinnacle’s  more historic decorations.

Boisel’s project was considered too bizarre by many of the villagers, but the local youth were so enthusiastic about having a xenomorph on a sacred monument that the “geek chapel” project was accepted. Currently they’re all still visible and are one of the most curious gargoyle phenomena that renovation history has ever known.

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