Sunday, November 22, 2009

Angels, Demons and Darth Vader.

Hey guys. Well, yesterday I decided to head on over to the National Cathedral in DC. I'd been wanting to visit for a few weeks now, and a dreary, overcast Saturday seemed like the perfect day to appreciate an old gothic-style church, fully equipped with everything you'd expect from a pseudo-medieval cathedral save the industrial era black soot so ubiquitous in Europe.

The place floored me...everything from the overwhelmingly beautiful natural lighting to the spooky cloisters and small passageways in the crypt to the intensely appropriate gaudiness of the adornments contrasted with the cold, harsh stone of the building itself. And of course the massiveness. It's huge. Overwhelming.

I always thought - and still do - I would never have wanted to belong to a Christian church in the middle ages, when they built these giant, overwhelming cathedrals...dark and gloomy, but magnificent...meant to make you feel small, worthless - who are next to God? - with some priest standing high above you at his lectern, saying you were condemned from the beginning but you could certainly buy your salvation now. It's pretty perverse. No wonder they revolted, sacked Rome. But, that's sort of what I love about these cathedrals now (admittedly this is an episcopalian cathedral, and with construction beginning in the late 1800's, missing the heyday of bloody Christian history, but it tries really hard to fit in with the others); anyways, whenever I go in them I get this strange juxtaposition of emotions, they're so beautiful and awe-inspiring but at the same time shadowy and mysterious, even sordid. It's strange people's reaction to churches.

Well, don't you worry, I had my camera with me and took about a million pictures. So these are some of my favorites.

Oh yeah and in reference to the title of this post, construction on the cathedral began in the late 1800's but it wasn't officially finished until 1990. So there are a few modern illusions in the artwork, Hitler's head on a snake representing the devil, etc. and no joke a Darth Vader gargoyle on the outside. I read about it after, it was some sort of children's competition a little boy won and got to design a gargoyle. Gotta respect the church for not backing out and going through with a "Darth Vader" design.


becca said...

kim these are beautiful!!!

Kimberly Paul said...

thanks becca. I definitely had a lot of things in my favor that day...good lighting and a relatively empty church, not many people/tourists in the way.

JeffDad said...

I liked the pictures of the National Cathedral pretty much like ... Totally!!!
The Cathedral is really beautiful and your photos really capture its grandeur and gothiciness.
I know what you mean about the mixed feelings they evoke. There is beauty and ancient timelessness to them, but then again there are dead bodies in there and in the old Euro ones, usually a bad smell of some sort. They don't exactly advertise the "Jesus Lives" message.