Grin heads

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Grin heads can be found on various house facades, especially in the historic centre of Cologne. The example shown here is on the façade of the FRÜH brewery by the cathedral. These grimacing heads, often in the shape of a monster or demon, had a very practical function. The mouth opening and sometimes the meal tusks were used to clamp wooden planks or logs, to which a rope or pulley could then be attached. This created a means of transporting heavy loads in and out of the cellar hatch.

It is speculated that the creepy design of the heads goes back to Roman death masks, but this has not been proven. What is certain is that the grin heads, whose name goes back to the word "grin" and, like gargoyles, assumed a protective function against devils, demons and other evil spirits due to their ghastly appearance, as according to medieval belief these were afraid of their own faces.

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Cologne's old town is just a few minutes' walk from Cologne's main railway station, and you'll find grinning heads on the walls of the houses in the narrow cobbled streets.

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