A hunky punk is often a short squatting figure, usually an animal, carved in stone. The name apparently derives from a combination of the old English terms ‘hunkers’ meaning haunches, and ‘punchy’ meaning short-legged.
They are typically found on late-Gothic churches, although they can be found from middle-to-late medieval architecture onwards. They are typically positioned at the corner of a church tower, along the coping ridge below any crenellations.
While similar in appearance to gargoyles, a hunky punk is actually a grotesque in that it is a purely ornamental architectural feature rather than having the function of draining water. However, Victorians did punch holes through some hunky punks to create rainwater downpipes.
The theory behind hunky punks and grotesques in general, was that churches were designed to reflect the balance between good and evil, reminding worshippers of the narrow path leading through life. As a result, for every saint or animal that was intended to signify purity and ‘goodness’, there was also an ugly creature to signify evil and ‘badness’.
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