A gargoyle looks out from the stonework in New College, Oxford(Getty)

Gargoyles have been used since ancient times. Their architectural function is to prevent rainwater eroding the mortar holding together the bricks and stone of a building. Right up until the 19th century, when boring downpipes became increasingly common, legions of gargoyles were deployed to spew storm deluges harmlessly away from the sides of churches, Oxford colleges and countless other structures.

But the gargoyle has always functioned as another kind of outlet, of course: for architects', stonemasons' and others' fervid imagination. Want to psychoanalyse a people? Perhaps take a look at their gargoyles.

Have a gander at our gargoyle gallery
and let us know whether we really have captured some of the most frightening carvings from around the world. (And, by the way, is the art of gargoyling - our term - dead? Let us know, when you reach the end of our tour, whether a certain princely chap with rather outspoken views on architecture has been successfully rendered recently in stone... )