This word dates from the 1400s and typically describes the sometimes grotesque figures on the outside of buildings especially churches and cathedrals. The origin of the word is the Old French gargouille meaning throat. We get the word gargle from the same root. According to an old French legend, a monstrous dragon called Gargouille lived in a cave on the river Seine near Rouen and terrorised its inhabitants until St Romanus subdued it with the Sign of the Cross. The hideous dragon was then killed and the townspeople displayed the grotesque head on the walls of the town. This, it is said, was the start of the tradition of putting gargoyles on buildings. By 1200, however, a more useful purpose came to the fore, as gargoyles became the mouths of downspouts through which water was drained from the gutters of the great Gothic cathedrals. They serve this role today.