Grotesques

Darth Vader

The Star Wars Villain on the Northwest Tower

DarthVader

In the 1980s, while the west towers were under construction, Washington National Cathedral held a decorative sculpture competition for children. Word of the competition was spread nationwide through National Geographic World Magazine. The third-place winner was Christopher Rader, with his drawing of that fearful villain, Darth Vader. The fierce head was sculpted by Jay Hall Carpenter, carved by Patrick J. Plunkett, and placed high upon the northwest tower of the Cathedral.

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How to find Darth Vader

First, bring binoculars! Darth Vader is very difficult to see by the naked eye. Leave the building through the ramp entrance which is through the wooden doors near the standing statue of Abraham Lincoln. Go down the ramp, and step onto the grass on your right. Then, turn around and look back up at the tower closest to you. Start at the top of the tower. There are two large pinnacles, or points, on the corners of the tower and a much smaller one in the center. Follow the center pinnacle down and find the first gablet, or tiny peaked roof. Darth Vader is the grotesque on the right on the north, or right-hand, side.

Parking at the Cathedral

Parking in the Cathedral’s underground garage is free on Sundays for services and organ recitals; parking for concerts and programs is available for an event-parking fee. Learn more about parking options for individuals and groups.