Grotesques of Ecuadorian seabirds on the Basílica del Voto Nacional in Quito, Ecuador
© Henri Leduc/Getty Image
A 'grotesque' scene
'Goofy' might be a better descriptor, but these seabird statues lining an outer wall of an Ecuadorian cathedral are called 'grotesques'—the architectural term for a statue ornamenting the side of a building. But hang on…don't we call those 'gargoyles'? Not exactly. Gargoyles are simply grotesques that boast a specific, practical feature: spouts that convey water from rain gutters away from the building.
Grotesques often live up to their off-putting name, depicting demons or monsters (the word 'gargoyle' comes from 'garguille,' an evil creature from French legend). But the Basílica del Voto Nacional's grotesques celebrate the beautiful fauna of Ecuador: not only seabirds but iguanas, crocodiles, armadillos, and more. Though the basílica is one of Quito's premier tourist attractions, it's been under construction since 1892 and technically remains unfinished—but legend has it the world will end when it's complete, so no one's really been rushing the job.