Visitors to the Citadel of Carcassonne beheld a strange sight in early December 2016. Just imagine: perched on a scaffolding 8 metres high, a masked figure in a space suit was busy working on one of the Saint-Nazaire gargoyles. From dawn till late at night, in the bitter cold, he performed a strange ballet in the air.
A thief, a groom for freak animals, a follower of some arcane cult?
None of that. He was making a full-size cast of a gargoyle. And « full-size » is not an idle word when one considers that the stone demon overlooking the Saint Anne Door in the Basilica measures at least 1.5 metres, taking into account only the part protruding from the church wall. Admittedly, when seen from solid ground, it appears much more modest but seen from close up, it is truly a heavy and massive stone monster
An operation respecting all the rules…
It goes without saying that all the necessary administrative and material precautions were taken.
It was out of the question to risk damaging this venerable sculpture! It may only date back to the 19th century – next to nothing when compared to the age of the church! – but it is kept under close scrutiny – by the town council and by the Architect from the French Historic Buildings board, both of them having given their approval for the operation to take place.
… and the monument
For this reason, the endowment fund called upon a specialist for this operation.
Michaël Guillot, the man behind the cast is a young medievalist who has discovered a practical skill through his university research. This history lover has found a means of realizing his passion for ancient stones. Established in Lagrasse, Michaël Guillot collaborates with another artisan, Alphonse Snoek, well-known for his reproductions of details found in abbeys and castles (capitals and common objects as well as monumental statues) in France and elsewhere.
The technique has been perfected: the stone is protected and covered with a quick-drying layer of silicone, rigid shells are made … and finally, retrieving the soft mould which will allow copies of the original to be made in resin and fibre glass.
Identical reproductions to allow artistic expression by contemporary artists
These modern artists will appropriate the copies, taking hold of the neutral yet faithful form of the gargoyle to express their talent. Like Viollet-le-Duc who, in his time, picked up his paintbrush to recreate vanished gargoyles, the artists will reinvent them, showing us what the 21st century understands of a secular architectural tradition. Their work will be shown at an open-air exhibition in the Citadel of Carcassonne in autumn 2017. Make a note of this
All the details of this operation can be found in THE GARGOYLES’ ROUND