“Look up, look down, there’s a crazy world outside…”

You can walk past buildings for years and never see the faces glaring down at you—until one day, you stop and look up.

St. Paul’s Lutheran Church (here in D.C., near the corner of Connecticut Avenue and Ellicott Street NW) was begun in 1930 and finished in 1958.

By then, its spire was unfashionably neo-medieval….

…ringed as it is with winged lions right out of illuminated manuscripts.

Two miles away, the folks at Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church (across the street from American University) began building their new church in 1932.

A prominent spire promises similar beasties…

…but two waterspouts near the front of the church are barely zoomorphic…

…while the spire itself sports not gargoyles, not grotesques…

….but faux-tesques!

7 thoughts on ““Look up, look down, there’s a crazy world outside…”

  1. Linda, I was thinking the same thing: They look like little features my nephew put on the Lego Hogwarts Castle he received for Christmas. I can’t remember seeing anything like them on a church before; maybe someone will chime in if faux-tesques are more common than I realized.

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  2. Isn’t the Methodist tradition somewhat spare? In its architectural designs, surely as seen here, but also in the way its faith is practiced?

    These elements seem to be flirting with Art Deco, offering a basic outline of the critters but sans the ornate detail we usually see featured in your photos.

    Looking at the other details on the spire, they too are much less ornate than, for example, those on the Lutheran church.

    Such fun. Thank you for finding them. You’re pulling together quite an assemblage. Maybe you could organize a tour of them, at least those you’ve found in the District. In the springtime would be lovely.

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  3. It’s a good question–and I’m glad you enjoy these finds!

    I don’t know much about the practice of Methodism; I do know that Methodist churches can be ornate but aren’t supposed to be too ornate. If these faux-tesques aren’t meant to reflect a desire to make sure the church is only so ornate, then maybe they were just a budget-friendly way to mass-produce objects that suggest gargoyles from below? As is the case with many architectural questions, I hope Google will eventually bring to this post a commenter more knowledgeable than I…

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  4. The church I have passed by without particularly noticing on and off for years. But isn’t there a statue of Pastor Muehlenberg in the park out front? The pace of construction sounds almost medieval–I suppose that the war accounts for some of the delay.

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  5. George: If there’s a statue on that nearby wedge of grass, I totally overlooked it. I’ll keep an eye out the next time I drive past. It’s both amusing and embarrassing to know that I’ve driven and walked and taken buses near this church for 17 years without ever spotting the gargoyles on the spire.

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