The time an ‘Alien’ gargoyle appeared on an ancient abbey and blew up the Internet

7 April 2021, 14:40 | Updated: 7 April 2021, 22:48

The time an ‘Alien’ gargoyle appeared on an ancient abbey and blew up the Internet
The time an ‘Alien’ gargoyle appeared on an ancient abbey and blew up the Internet. Picture: Getty / "Paisley Abbey 'Xenomorph' Gargoyle" by markyharky is licensed under CC BY 2.0

By Sian Moore

Among the spires and steeples of Paisley Abbey in Scotland, sits an extraterrestrial gargoyle. No, really...

With rows of pointed teeth and a distinct domed head, this particular stone figure is more reminiscent of a certain Ridley Scott ’70s horror film than the Gothic gargoyles by its sides.

Take a trip to Paisley Abbey in Renfrewshire, Scotland, and you will, indeed, find a sculpted replica of the fictitious fearsome species depicted in the Alien series.

Now, if you’re wondering just how a stonemason could have crafted such a bang-on depiction all those centuries ago... we’re sorry to reveal that they didn’t.

In 1991 some remodelling was being carried out on the 12th-century Scottish abbey, and it was decided that some of the building’s original gargoyles would be replaced by more contemporary creatures – including this feisty Xenomorph XX121.

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The gargoyle at Paisley Abbey
The gargoyle at Paisley Abbey. Picture: "THE ALIEN GARGOYLE OF PAISLEY ABBEY" by paisleyorguk is licensed under CC BY 2.0

What was probably once a well-kept secret naturally became a viral Internet sensation.

Many people might not have spotted the ornate alien perched atop the arched doorways of the ancient abbey, if a photo of the gargoyle hadn’t stormed social media a few years ago.

But it turns out the sculpture wasn’t the work of a sneaky stonemason who wanted to have a bit of a laugh.

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On The Traditional Buildings Health Check’s website, a blog post by David Lindsay, the person drafted in for the job, reveals the true sequence of events.

“The client’s brief asked for the creation of contemporary new designs,” Lindsay explains. “This was a bold decision considering that the building is Category A Listed.”

David explains how he had no existing designs to replicate, as the abbey’s original carvings had been replaced in the 1950s.

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“The gargoyles I had been tasked to supply would also be functional, designed to incorporate a channel that could carry water,” he continued.

20 or so proposals for the new designs were put forward, including one that David had drawn to pay homage to the fearsome creature from one of his favourite films, Alien.

“I could not have been more surprised when, at the client meeting, I was handed the pile of approved designs to find among them the one I had sketched only the evening before,” he added.

Since the pictures went viral on social media, plenty have flocked to see the quirky fixture in all its glory, bringing unexpected new audiences to a beloved medieval edifice.