The Saga Continues

darth vader grotesque

The Darth Side

Gothic cathedrals provoke mystery and awe. The best and biggest in Europe are places where you could spend hours, reading the art and architecture as if it were an ancient grimoire.

When the church was busy building these enormous cathedrals, Christianity was only just taking hold in the farther reaches of Europe, and people were skeptical and not completely willing to abandon their old gods. One of the church’s tactics to win over the populace was to place icons or symbols of pagan deities in and around the church grounds, so people would still be willing to come and make the area a place of worship (most churches are built on pre-Christian sacred sites anyway). Over time, the gods were depicted in a less positive manner, and placed outside the church, to serve as gutters and waterspouts. These are what we now know as gargoyles and grotesques. The idea being, these are no longer gods to be admired, but evil spirits who cannot pass inside the holy place, and represent all that is dangerous and bad about the secular world.

I was reminded recently that this idea is still with us, after watching part of Judge Scalia’s funeral on TV which took place at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. The Cathedral is neo-Gothic, and as such, it has all the typical characteristics of Gothic constructions, including gargoyles and grotesques.

The National Cathedral’s most interesting grotesque by far is Darth Vader. It’s no secret that the mythology of Star Wars was based on world folklore and religion, so it’s not surprising that the franchise has been adapted as a form of pseudo-religion and modern mythology for the American population, but Darth Vader as a grotesque on the National Cathedral takes this to a whole new level.

If the sacred space inside the cathedral represents balance in the Force, then we would expect Darth Vader to represent the dangerous extreme of lust for power and violent domination. Of course, another general characteristic of grotesques is that they depict duality, which makes sense, since Christian theology has always associated duality with strife, discord, and the devil. And Darth Vader has a dual nature, which is Anakin/Vader.


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