Research Article

DOI :10.26650/artsanat.2019.12.0008   IUP :10.26650/artsanat.2019.12.0008    Full Text (PDF)

A Comparison Experiment on the Figures of the Rainspout in Gothic Architecture and Turk-Islam Architecture in the 12th and 14th Centuries

Alper Altın

Waterspouts are an architectural element that are used to protect the wall and mortar from the corrosive effect of water accumulated on the roof. Figured waterspouts are handled differently depending on cultures. In Turkish-Islamic culture, water is associated with fertility. Therefore, figures that are associated to abundance are seen on cortens. In addition, power-related figures were also used. However, in Medieval Western Christian belief, water run through the minds negativeness. In addition, because the water damages the structure, the figures associated with evil are represented as gargoyles. In this context, figured waterspouts in Anatolia and Europe are examined in general. In our study, it is aimed to reveal similar and different characteristics of these waterspouts which have distinct symbolic meanings in East and West. In order to limit the subject, 12th and 14th centuries are especially choosen. This time period corresponds to the Anatolian Seljuks, Principalities period and the Gothic period. 

DOI :10.26650/artsanat.2019.12.0008   IUP :10.26650/artsanat.2019.12.0008    Full Text (PDF)

12-14. Yüzyıl Türk-İslam Mimarisi ile Gotik Mimarisindeki Figürlü Yağmur Olukları Üzerine Bir Karşılaştırma Denemesi

Alper Altın

Yağmur olukları, duvarı ve harcı çatıda biriken suların aşındırıcı etkisinden korumak için kullanılan bir mimari elemandır. Bunlar sade yapıldığı gibi figürlü olarak da yapılmışlardır. Figürlü yağmur olukları kültürlere göre farklı bir şekilde ele alınmıştır. Türk-İslam kültüründe su bereketle ilişkilendirilmektedir. Bundan dolayı çörtenler üzerinde bereketle tasavvur edilen figürler görülmektedir. Bunun yanı sıra güçle ilintili figürler de kullanılmıştır. Batı’da Ortaçağ Hıristiyan inancında ise su, dinen olumsuz anlamda düşünülmüştür. Ayrıca su yapıya zarar verdiği için musibetle ilişkilendirilen figürler gargoylelerde kullanılmıştır. Bu bağlamda Anadolu ve Avrupa’daki figürlü yağmur olukları genel olarak incelenmiştir. Çalışmamız ile Doğu ve Batı’da ayrı sembolik anlamlara sahip bu yağmur oluklarının benzer ve farklı özellikleri ortaya çıkarılmak istenmiştir. Konuyu sınırlamak amacıyla 12. ve 14. yüzyıllar tercih edilmiştir. Bu zaman aralığı Anadolu Selçukluları ve Beylikler dönemi ile Gotik döneme denk gelmektedir.


Water is the source of life for all living things. Because of our need for water, mankind has always seen water as a sacred element throughout history. Water, over artifacts and monuments symbolized life, healing, fertility, strength, beauty and enjoyment. It was seen as sacred in Turkey and was believed to be the spirit of water. In addition, water was associated with fortune, life, soul, chance, fortune, conscience, and character. In Turkish culture and the Islamic faith, water and rain are considered as the source of life and abundance. In Turkish-Islamic architecture, waterspouts are called corten. Waterspouts protected mortar and masonry walls from corrosive effects by getting rid of rain and snow water away from the wall and foundation. In the Anatolian Seljuks and Dynasties periods, a large part of the cortens in architectural works was made simple and another was meant to be figurative. The pre-Islamic and Islamic beliefs of Turks determined their view of water. Cortens was produced positively in the context of these religious beliefs. It is known that the cortens, especially those with figures, are made with symbolic purposes such as fertility, abundance, happiness, and power. Therefore, the figures are in direct relation with these concepts. The usage of animal figures was avoided apart from these meanings. Although Islamic belief and Turks perceived water positively, the Christian faith and the Latins perceived water as positive in the spiritual direction and negative in the material direction. Sacred water was used for religious rituals. No doubt the most important of these rites is baptism, which is seen as a spiritual cleansing rather than a material one and early Christians emphasized the spiritual aspect. During the Middle Ages, the Western Christian world did not accept bathing as an innocent practice leaving out it in religious rituals. Many monks and saints believed St. Francis of Assisi’s idea that an unwashed body is a sign of piety! For this reason, Western society avoided water except for the occasional bath. In the 12-14th centuries, the works of Gothic architecture started in Europe. In this architectural understanding in which religious structures are predominant, buildings tend to rise vertically. In Gothic architecture, the waterspouts represented as figures that provide the evacuation of rain water are called gargoyles. The gargoyles have a terrifying psychological effect on the believer. These are mostly waterspouts with plastic properties made in the form of terrifying demonic creatures. In the medieval Christian world, the church taught religion to society through art. That is, art was made for the purpose of religious propaganda. In the Middle Ages, the Church even resorted to the most formidable forms of evil in order to spread its religious teachings. Some gargoyles served as a moral reminder to sinners, and because gargoyles were thought to represent the souls condemned for their sins, it was suggested that sinners were forbidden to enter the church. By reflecting the horrible appearance of hell, Satan, which is an unconventional image that does not conform to the church, reminds people that they will be safe in the sacred church. Although some gargoyles are quite simple in design, the majority of them are decorated in detail. These are decorative carvings representing grotesque animals, birds, dragons, satyrs, mermaids, snakes, and many other themes. They can also be in the form of fascinating hybrids and mythical creatures such as semi-human semi-animal figures. The functional purpose of the gargoyles is the waterspout. The symbolic aim is to ward off evil. The waterspouts in religious and secular buildings served the same purpose in different architectures throughout the 12-14th centuries. The figured waterspouts are shaped differently in proportion to the value judgments, beliefs, traditions, cultural and architectural heritage of societies. Due to the ban on animal and human figures in Islamic architecture, the figured ornament was rarely seen. The Turks have a moderate approach to figurative ornaments due to their old beliefs. In the Anatolian Seljuk architecture, almost all the building groups have symbolic, mythological, astrological, cosmological and talismanic figures. We usually see figured ornament around openings such as doors and windows, but it is rarely encountered in the waterspouts. Cortens have symbolized power, strength in relation to protection while symbolizing goodness, abundance and mercy in relation to rain. The cortens associated with guardianship of religion generally had been located on facades trough the roads where people can see easily. In the cortens, animal or human figures can be seen. Animal figures include depictions of lions, rams and bulls. Mythical creatures include depictions of dragons. The lion is the symbol of strength; the rams and bulls are symbols of abundance, and the dragon symbolizes both abundance and power. The Abbey Church of Saint Denis in France is accepted as the first Gothic structure. The eastern section of the church was designed by Abbot Suger. The Western world inherited the Greek, Hellenistic, Etruscan and Roman architectures and adapted these ancient styles to gothic architecture. The understanding of ornaments in Gothic architecture developed in the scholastic thinking of the church. All the decorations around the religious buildings were made parallel to the teachings of the church. Emphasis on the instructional use of visual imageries, resulted in the creation of many monsters. The animal figured waterspouts were used in the western world by Greeks and Etruscans who especially preferred those with lion heads. The gargoyles depict a wide variety of animals and imaginary creatures that we tend to associate with evil. It is not a coincidence that they often have cloven hooves, bat wings, goat beards and horns. Gargoyles were consciously depicted as demons and associated with evil. The use of these figures in waterspouts caused them to consider water as a symbol of disaster and trouble. Since Turkish-Islamic architecture has a limited number of cortens showing figures, we tried to include all the samples. The cortens are classified according to the figures they depict. As there is a large number of gargoyles in Gothic Architecture, we included only a few samples. Some examples of gargoyles in churches or monasteries in different parts of Europe were compared. Similarities between these gargoyles were found in different structures. Finally, similar and different characteristics of the figured waterspouts in two separate cultures are indicated.

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Altın, A. (2019). A Comparison Experiment on the Figures of the Rainspout in Gothic Architecture and Turk-Islam Architecture in the 12th and 14th Centuries. Art-Sanat, 0(12), 19-56.


Altın A. A Comparison Experiment on the Figures of the Rainspout in Gothic Architecture and Turk-Islam Architecture in the 12th and 14th Centuries. Art-Sanat. 2019;0(12):19-56.


Altın, A. A Comparison Experiment on the Figures of the Rainspout in Gothic Architecture and Turk-Islam Architecture in the 12th and 14th Centuries. Art-Sanat, [Publisher Location], v. 0, n. 12, p. 19-56, 2019.

Chicago: Author-Date Style

Altın, Alper,. 2019. “A Comparison Experiment on the Figures of the Rainspout in Gothic Architecture and Turk-Islam Architecture in the 12th and 14th Centuries.” Art-Sanat 0, no. 12: 19-56.

Chicago: Humanities Style

Altın, Alper,. A Comparison Experiment on the Figures of the Rainspout in Gothic Architecture and Turk-Islam Architecture in the 12th and 14th Centuries.” Art-Sanat 0, no. 12 (May. 2021): 19-56.

Harvard: Australian Style

Altın, A 2019, 'A Comparison Experiment on the Figures of the Rainspout in Gothic Architecture and Turk-Islam Architecture in the 12th and 14th Centuries', Art-Sanat, vol. 0, no. 12, pp. 19-56, viewed 9 May. 2021,

Harvard: Author-Date Style

Altın, A. (2019) ‘A Comparison Experiment on the Figures of the Rainspout in Gothic Architecture and Turk-Islam Architecture in the 12th and 14th Centuries’, Art-Sanat, 0(12), pp. 19-56. (9 May. 2021).


Altın, Alper,. A Comparison Experiment on the Figures of the Rainspout in Gothic Architecture and Turk-Islam Architecture in the 12th and 14th Centuries.” Art-Sanat, vol. 0, no. 12, 2019, pp. 19-56. [Database Container],


Altın A. A Comparison Experiment on the Figures of the Rainspout in Gothic Architecture and Turk-Islam Architecture in the 12th and 14th Centuries. Art-Sanat [Internet]. 9 May. 2021 [cited 9 May. 2021];0(12):19-56. Available from: doi: 10.26650/artsanat.2019.12.0008


Altın, Alper. A Comparison Experiment on the Figures of the Rainspout in Gothic Architecture and Turk-Islam Architecture in the 12th and 14th Centuries”. Art-Sanat 0/12 (May. 2021): 19-56.


Last Revision23.05.2019


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