The terrifying beast looming from the ledge of this building is immediately recognizable to horror and sci-fi fans around the world as the xenomorph from the ALIEN franchise, first unleashed in Ridley Scott’s classic 1979 film of the same name. So how did it end up on a Gothic church built in the late 12th century?
That riddle has been baffling researchers for years, but according to a recent article in The Vintage News, we may finally have an answer… sort of.
Paisley Abbey, originally built in 1163 as a monastery and best known as the birthplace of King Robert II of Scotland, with a school once attended by famed revolutionary William Wallace, incorporates design motifs of the Gothic period — which means lots of snarling gargoyles protruding from the upper ledges. Usually carved to adorn waterspouts which protected the structures from damage from the elements, gargoyles have traditionally depicted demons and other sinister creatures as wards against evil spirits… or a warning to sinners of the hellish tormentors waiting for them in the afterlife.
But why does this particular carving depict a xenomorph so accurately?
People have been asking that since a picture of the “Paisley Alien” went viral in 2013, touching off a lengthy investigation. Finally, as reported by The Vintage News, the BBC interviewed Reverend Alan Birss, current minister of Paisley Abbey, about the bizarre anachronism… and he revealed a shocking discovery.
According to Rev. Birss, 12 of the abbey’s original 13 gargoyles were completely redone in the early 1990s, and the unknown mason working on this particular piece might have been partly inspired by the ALIEN films… or maybe the image was just floating around in his mind at the time.
“Perhaps the alien from the film was his idea of an alien,” Birss said in the interview. “I’m sure he wasn’t deliberately copying the alien in the film. It was just [his] concept of an alien.”
Since the stone-carver’s identity is still a mystery, it’s impossible to know for sure… but it’s fun to think a beloved genre classic could inspire an artist so deeply he chose to immortalize it on a historic building — and thanks to this work (plus a shout-out to H.R. Giger’s original design), Paisley Abbey is making history again.