In the 1980s, while the Cathedral’s two west towers were under construction, the Cathedral held a design-a-carving competition for children. Word of the competition was spread nationwide through National Geographic World magazine. The third-place winner, Christopher Rader, submitted a drawing of that fearful villain: Star Wars’ 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. (The other winner designs were a raccoon, a girl with pigtails and braces, and a man with large teeth and an umbrella.)
How to find the Darth Vader Grotesque
Join one of the Gargoyle Tours (temporarily unavailable due to COVID-19 closures. Please refer to our FAQ for updates), or follow these steps:
- Bring binoculars—Darth Vader is difficult to spot with the naked eye.
- Exit the Cathedral through the ramp door (near the Abraham Lincoln statue).
- Turn and look up at the closest tower; find the two large points (pinnacles), on the corners at the top of the tower, and a much smaller one in the center.
- Follow the center pinnacle down and find the first tiny peaked roof (gablet). Darth Vader is the “bump” on the right side of the roof.