Friday, June 19, 2009

Dragons - Two of em - guarding St. Peters

Ursula LeGuinn (A Wizard of Earthsea), Tolkien (The Hobbit) and the Brothers Grimm (The Red Dragon) provide details about the massive critters who metaphorically gather materialistic items loved by mankind and hoard them beneath green scales in huge caverns in the midst of mountain caves.

I know, I know, dinosaurs are simply an archetypal version of man’s own materialism, a metaphor for the temper of wealthy men and women who hoard while refusing to share their glittering wealth with the less affluent.

Now, what powerful organization would be more apt to hold such goods? The Catholic Church? There is a connection.

Did you know that in Vatican City two dragons reside atop the arches leading into St. Peter’s basilica. In stunning gold leaf these two dragons sit on either side of a golden eagle which itself sits atop the keystone of the central arch leading into the holy of holies, St. Peters itself – the center of all that is materialistic in the Church of Rome.

Did these two dragons go silently and with no complaint to adorn the arches or was there a conflict, an argument between them and their human masters which forced them forever to forego the brilliant winds of the southern Pacific, the high mountain passes and the dark overwhelming caves of the Alps, the Andes, and the Hindu Kush in order to grace these amazing doorways into the temple of temples of the Catholic church?

I suspect it was not always so. At some time in the history of mythology dragons were mightier than the men who eventually grappled and won the battle to represent the spiritual welfare of manunkind. There must have been a time when these two golden winged creatures glided freely amongst others who escaped the flood with Noah. Perhaps that is the rub-a-dub-dub-floating in the tub, the tub of the planet, covered as it once was with the waters eventually captured in the glaciers of the world.

These mighty creatures must have cost Noah some considerable consternation as he tried to load two of them onto his ark. Can you imagine golden dragons with breath of fire slowly and ponderously walking aboard the ark to live peacefully with the rest of Noah’s god's creatures just to escape the punishment of an angry god, a petulant god who pouted aimlessly because he was not properly worshipped?

I believe that these two massive creatures refused to enter the ark. Could their position on either side of the keystone of St. Peter’s denote some kind of penance for failing to cooperate?

Dragons are decidedly unchristian. Not so unchristian as lions, to be sure, who competed for the attention of the Romans in the coliseum. No, dragons probably refused to perform in the same theatre as Christians

These fellows must have committed the ultimate sin to be punished for so long in such a public way. The critturs who most loved dark places resplendent with straight arrows of sunlight filtering through miles of granite or sandstone causing their jewels to shimmer and sparkle in the darkness find themselves forever resplendent in gold leaf guarding the treasures of the Church.

What is it that caused their downfall, their placement above the doorway to St Peter's Basilica to guard the massive trove of treasures known as Vatican City? What mystical archetypal meaning is there to all of this? What is the story behind their incarceration in sunny Italy?

I assure you that the tale must be a strange one which we would never imagine if it weren’t so bizarre. Far fetched to be sure, there is only one deed which could have cost these graceful, powerful fire-breathing denizens of the highest skies to be so interred over the doorway to St. Peters. They are the representations of the devil. Why then do they guard the doors to the most famous Catholic Church on the planet? Could it be that they project the ultimate sin of that same church: self-aggrandizement at the expense of the poor.