The Gargoyles of Princeton University

Marble tiger at Princeton University, photo by Denise Applewhite, from

I’m still reading Holy Terrors (along with doing a million other things), but I haven’t quite decided yet what I want to write about it. Sometimes, I still have to remind myself that I can’t write in a dry academic style and expect people to enjoy my posts and come back for more, no matter how solid my research is. When you write in academia, the people who read your work usually have to for one reason or another, so keeping them interested isn’t really a top concern. I think I still haven’t gotten the tone and style right yet in my longer and more research based posts, but I really didn’t want to keep all my wonderful followers waiting too long, especially since I didn’t post yesterday. At the end of the introduction to Holy Terrors, there is a short discussion of American gargoyles, including some at Princeton University, and I thought the Princeton gargoyles would make an enjoyable diversion.

Chained dragon from Princeton University campus, photo by Denise Applewhite, from

I found this self-guided tour of Princeton’s gargoyles, grotesques, and other carved decorations, which is accompanied by some great information about the histories and meanings of many of them There are too many creatures, from witty and charming animals to faces dedicated to fallen students, for me to choose some to highlight. However, I was partial to some of the academically inclined animal grotesques like the Literate Ape below. I realize that Princeton has a large campus, but I am still very impressed by how many gargoyles it has managed to pack in over the years as new buildings have been built.

The Literate Ape, on Princeton University’s campus. Photo by John Jameson, from

This 2010 new item on the school’s website provides some nice photos as well, and this post from Princeton Magazine talks about the Gothic Revival architecture by Ralph Adams Cam, which was the subject of a past exhibition at the Princeton University Art Museum. This blog had some great photos, too. A lot of my search results had to do with guided tours of the campus’s gargoyles, many of which were sponsored by the town’s library. I’m not sure how often these tours go on, but if you are ever in the Princeton area, you may want to check into it.

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