Cologne Cathedral and 'The Jews'-Gargoyles

On the southern chapel pier of the axial chapel is a gargoyle with unambiguously anti-Jewish motifs that dates from sometime around the year 1300..

Related to the depiction of the so-called 'Judensau' in the choir stalls, this gargoyle takes the form of a pig crouching on its hind legs. A man, identifiable as a Jew from the conical hat on his head, is suckling on the sow's teats. This motif was widely used in architectural sculpture from the thirteenth century onwards. About 30 of these caricatures are known to exist on churches and other public buildings, especially in the German-speaking world.

A variety of inflammatory terms of abuse based on such imagery are still in use to this day. The Nazis in particular used such terms to slander, humiliate and dehumanise Jews and as a means of rabble-rousing.

There are, however, no known parallels of the gargoyle on the buttress pier between the Chapel of St Michael and the Chapel of St Agnes. To this day, experts cannot agree on its meaning. The original, which was created sometime around the year 1300 was replaced by a copy in 1983/84. The anti-Jewish character of the gargoyle was not know at that time. This gargoyle takes the form of a hybrid creature that is half human, half animal. The creature's lower body is that of a cloven-hoofed animal that could be interpreted as a pig. The head of the human upper part of the creature is covered by a piece of fabric that is reminiscent of a tallit, the fringed Jewish prayer shawl. The fact that the characteristic fringes (tzitzit) usually found at the corners of the shawl are missing, may have sculptural reasons relating to the hard material used (trachyte) and the exposed location (weathering). According to this interpretation, this image would be even harsher than other portrayals of Jews because the figure is dehumanised in the most literal sense of the word by being given the lower body of an animal.
Peter Füssenich

Gargoyle in the shape of a so-called 'Judensau'

This gargoyle is situated in a prominent place on the axial chapel of Cologne Cathedral.

KulturstiftungDombau Verein