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Darius' Rectory: A Magical Mystery Tour

by tirnanog

Darius at the chess table.

If you were to visit St. Julien le Pauvre in Paris hoping to find the rectory where Darius and Duncan played chess and drank tea you would be disappointed. The real church has no rectory, or any other buildings that belong to it. In the 6th century, a hostel for travelers once shared this site with the Merovingian basilica of St. Julien the Martyr, and during the Middle Ages, when the present church was the chapel of a Cluniac priory, there must have been some monastic buildings adjacent to St. Julien, but none of these have survived to the present day. Nor is there a room inside the church that could have been used to film the rectory scenes. The only other room besides the sanctuary is a little sacristy or office located at the west end of the north aisle, and it is too small to hold all the furniture and props that we saw in the episodes, let alone all the equipment needed for filming.

Fans have been told that the room we saw in the Darius episodes was actually a standing set on a soundstage in Paris. We have also been told that Highlander used the Paris soundstage only during Season One, so presumably the rectory set was dismantled after filming for that season had ended. It was never seen again in the series except in flashbacks using footage from the first season episodes. Still, the rectory lives on in memory as a unique and magical place, where many of us would have loved to spend some time poking around in the corners in search of lost Chronicles while Darius brewed up a pot of his moss or mold tea. But sometimes what is impossible in real life can be possible in the imagination...

So how do we get there? Where is the rectory located in relation to the rest of Darius' Church? Well, that depends on what episode you refer to for directions. Three of the five Darius episodes provide visual clues to the rectory's location and access. In Saving Grace, we see Grace Chandel and Carlos Sendaro enter the west doors of the church together, and the next time we see them, they are talking inside the rectory. Later on, after Grace has visited Darius at the rectory to say goodbye, we see her leaving by the west doors of the church. Obviously we are meant to assume that the door to the rectory is somewhere inside the church itself. In both For Tomorrow We Die and Saving Grace, we actually see characters enter the room through the door. As they do so, it is possible to catch a brief glimpse of what is outside the room.

If you pay close attention, or better yet, view the relevant sections of the episodes frame by frame, you can see through the open door a number of round columns, rows of wooden chairs facing left, the high windows of a clerestory, and in one shot, off to the left, a wooden screen that looks like the iconostasis at St. Julien. The famous harpy column and the wooden throne that once sat at its base are also visible in one shot, confirming that the sanctuary we see in these shots is really St. Julien le Pauvre. In these two episodes, it appears that the door of the rectory opens right onto the sanctuary of the real church! Yet I know from having been there that no such room exists at St. Julien, so these views into the sanctuary must have been achieved by special effects, perhaps with a blue screen.

The left-facing chairs I mentioned above tell us that the door to Darius' rectory must have been located somewhere on the north aisle of the church, with the door facing south. How do I know that? Most churches of that period (including St. Julien and it neighbors Notre Dame and St. Severin) are oriented so that the main entrance is on the west and the apse is on the east. Since the chairs face left as you look through the rectory door in these episodes, it follows that the rectory must be on the north aisle. (If this sounds confusing, see the diagram below.) Even if the fictional Darius' Church does not conform to this particular alignment, we can still conclude that the rectory door was located somewhere on the left-hand side of the church if you stand in the nave facing the apse.

Diagram of church.

However, in The Hunters, the last of the Darius episodes and the final episode of Season One, the rectory seems to have mysteriously "migrated" all the way to the other side of the sanctuary and further towards the apse (see diagram). Early in the episode we see Darius walking across the room and sitting down at the desk. Then Horton and his henchmen can be seen entering the church through the main doors, which creak ominously. Cut to a shot of Darius hearing the door, then back to Horton and his men walking down the nave. They turn right before they reach the apse and disappear through an archway into the right-hand aisle as a telephone starts ringing. Cut to a shot of Duncan on the phone at the barge trying to call Darius, and getting no answer. This sequence of shots gives the impression that the Hunters burst into the rectory before Darius had a chance to pick up the phone. But the part of the church Horton and his men are heading for as the phone rings is on the opposite side of the sanctuary from where the earlier episodes suggest that the rectory is located. If the rectory is on the right-hand side of the church, as indicated in The Hunters, the chairs visible through the door would be facing right, not left. Obviously there is a little continuity problem here, but one that I suspect few people noticed.

So there are actually two possibilities for the location of the rectory. If it were located just off the north aisle position, the rectory would be in the lovely Square René Viviani. If the rectory were located in the empty area just off the south aisle, it would be hidden from the Square Viviani, behind the buildings in the rue Galande. This is where the actual cloister and chaplain's quarters of St. Julien used to be located, as well as the now-demolished Chapel of St. Blaise and St. Louis. One could argue that since south side of the church was never visible in the series while the Square Viviani was, the southern location would be the best choice. But of course Darius' Church and its rectory are both imaginary places, and not limited by the geographical and architectural realities of St. Julien le Pauvre, except for those areas of the building that were actually shown on camera. Either location would work--just not both. Take your pick, and we'll go inside.

The door of the rectory is of dark wood with ornate cast iron hinges in a large filigree leaf shape. (The door is a bit unusual because it swings outward as it opens. Most doors leading to an interior room open inwards). The room we find ourselves standing in is not huge, but neither is it small, considering all the furniture it contains. I am just guessing, but in my estimation there might be around 400-500 square feet of floor space here. It is hard to be certain about the shape of the room, because you never see all of it at once in the episodes, but I think it is almost, but not quite, square-shaped. (See the floor plan below. Nothing is drawn to scale, of course--it's all just an approximation based on what I could see in the episodes).

The walls appear to be made of stone, the same color and type as the warm-toned ashlar veneer that was used in the construction of the real church of St. Julien. The ceiling of the rectory must be quite high, at least ten feet or more. In the first four Darius episodes we cannot tell if it is vaulted or not. In the fifth episode, vaulting is definitely visible in some of the shots (more about this later on).

Floorplan of the rectory.

Against the wall to our immediate left stands the large wooden armoire or cabinet in which Darius keeps, among other things, the infamous teapot he uses to serve mold tea to Duncan in The Beast Below. I have to wonder where he actually makes the tea. He might use the fireplace next to the armoire to heat the water, but there is no sink here to fill a kettle from. I can only guess that there must be a rectory kitchen nearby, but if so, we can see no direct access to it from this room--the only door to be seen is the one we came in by. The fireplace is quite large, with a massive mantlepiece of dark wood, surmounted by an ornate metal hood. I do not recall ever seeing a fire burning in it, even though the Darius episodes begin in late winter and continue into the spring, a time when Paris can be quite chilly. On the far side of the fireplace is a large metal candle stand with three tiers of thick, white candles. Behind it, all the way back in the corner, is a cluster of engaged columns with foliage capitals. These appear to be structural--you can see what might be the beginnings of rib vaulting coming from the capitals.

Continuing clockwise around the room, just to the right of the candle stand we come to a tall wooden bookcase, every inch of it crammed with books, mostly old leather-bound volumes in sets with gilt lettering on the spines. Obviously Darius loves old books--the top of the armoire is piled with them too. Near the bookcase is the table where Darius and Duncan played chess in For Tomorrow We Die, and where Darius later works on his model of Pickett's charge up Cemetery Hill in Saving Grace. Next to the bookcase is a stand holding a shaded lamp with two flame-shaped bulbs, and more books on the top and on the shelves underneath. (In The Beast Below, there is a tape recorder sitting on this stand on which Darius plays a tape of Gregorian chants for Duncan).

Now we come to the window. There is only one window in the entire room, a tall one, recessed deeply into the wall and fitted with two sets of wooden shutters, one above the other. The clear glass panes have a geometric pattern that resembles a quilt block. The wooden seat is piled with still more books, and framed pictures hang to either side within the deep window seat area. These are very dark, and it is impossible to tell what they represent.

at lectern in front of desk.

Just past the window, positioned diagonally across the far left corner, sits Darius' desk. On the desk are (what else?) more books, a white candle, an old black rotary dial phone (probably made of Bakelite), and a turn of the century electric lamp with a bottle-green glass shade shaped like a pyramid. Behind the desk is a stand holding a metal armillary sphere. This is a skeletal globe with interlocking rings that show the movements of the stars and other celestial bodies in relation to the earth. Darius' armillary sphere seems to "migrate" around the rectory from episode to episode--I think an effort was made to include it in shots often because it's a very interesting-looking object. (There used to be a shop in the rue St. Julien le Pauvre that made and sold armillary spheres--we can imagine that Darius' sphere might have come from this shop). And also it appears that there are even more shelves behind the desk with books piled on them.

Against the wall in the corner behind the desk are a series of elaborately carved wooden panels topped with Gothic arches. There seem to be six panels in all, two on the left and four on the right against the stone walls that form the corner. To the right of these panels the stone wall ends, and there is a recessed area a few feet deep. (This part of the room is only visible in The Beast Below). Here we can see one of the most intriguing and puzzling features in the room--an arcade of small, but heavy Romanesque stone arches supported by double columns with foliage capitals. The spaces between the arches have been walled up, forming a blind arcade. We do not see the beginning or the end of it, because the arches disappear behind the stone wall on the left and beyond the high, four-poster bed on the right. I wonder why the arcade is there to begin with, and why it is walled up. Were the arches part of a cloister, which was later absorbed into the present-day room? Does the recessed area continue behind the wall on the left, or beyond the bed, and if so, where does it lead? I do not know what the set designer intended, but the presence of these closed arches, suggesting a walled-up cloister, could be interpreted as a symbol of Darius' own cloistered existence, and the fact that he was virtually a prisoner on Holy Ground because of his pacifism, although he chose this life voluntarily.

The antique four-poster bed sports a canopy and heavy cloth hangings, and takes up most of the space in this corner of the room. Its presence here shows that the room serves multiple purposes. Not only is this Darius' office and study, and a place where he entertains his visitors--it is also his bedroom. (No wonder he tells Grace Chandel that he cannot invite her to stay with him at the rectory in Saving Grace. "My rectory is a little bit spartan, not to mention public," he apologizes, and offers to call the Mother Superior at the convent instead). The bed is quaint and old-fashioned, and the mattress is so high off the floor that even the six-foot-plus Darius probably has to climb up onto it, and you find yourself thinking that if he ever fell out of this bed in the middle of the night, he'd probably hurt himself.

Next to the head of the bed against the stone wall is a small table with an open book and an Art Nouveau gooseneck lamp with a glass shade shaped like a flower. There is also a crucifix hanging on the wall above the table. Next to it is a lectern with an open book on it and a cross on top. (This lectern is in front of Darius' desk in For Tomorrow We Die and moves to the location near the bed in The Beast Below).

A little further on is yet another overloaded wooden bookcase. (This is the bookcase where the book on Napoleon resides, as Darius mentions in Saving Grace). In the corner to the right of the bookcase stands another cluster of columns with foliage capitals, and behind it hang some gold-toned patterned draperies that seem to emerge from behind the bookcase. These draperies have always puzzled me. Why would Darius hang curtains on a stone wall? Is there something behind them? Do the bookcase and draperies conceal a window or another doorway? Is this perhaps the way to reach those other rooms that we never see, such as the kitchen where Darius makes tea and brews his mead, his bathroom, or the archives Duncan asks Father Beaufort about in the Season Six episode Armageddon? Or is it merely a closet where Darius hangs his spare habit or hides the Hoover? Since this was never explained in the series, we can imagine whatever we like.

and Duncan at the tea table.

By now, we've almost finished the circuit around the room. The last piece of furniture before we come to the door again is a small secretary with an open book resting on the writing shelf, and more books on its shelves above and below. A small crucifix hangs on the stone wall over it, and there is a hanging lantern-type electric wall fixture above that. And there is another important piece of furniture that must be mentioned too--somewhere towards the middle of the room just opposite the window is the tea table at which Duncan and Darius drink the dreaded mold tea during The Beast Below (my favorite scene in the entire episode). The armillary sphere moves over here from its usual place behind the desk for this particular scene and sits on the corner of the table like an invited guest. Duncan plays with it while he waits for his tea, and it makes squeaky conversation as it rotates.

This same tea-drinking scene from The Beast Below is included as a flashback in The Hunters, during a scene where Duncan searches the rectory for clues to Darius' murder, and remembers some happy moments he shared with Darius in this very room. But if you look closely at the episode, it becomes clear that the room Duncan is searching and the room he remembers in the flashbacks are not the same place! Yes, the furniture is the same--the armoire, fireplace, desk, and four-poster bed are all there. But the rectory we see in the first four Darius episodes has walls constructed of large, regularly shaped blocks of stone and no evidence of vaults, whereas the walls in The Hunters are constructed of small, irregularly shaped, rougher stones, and Gothic vaulting can be clearly seen. A large engaged column with Gothic rib vaulting springing from it suddenly appears in the empty wall space between the fireplace and armoire, and the cluster of columns with the foliage capitals that used to be in the corner by the bookcase is replaced by a single round column with a plain capital. The familiar deep window with wooden shutters and window seat has mysteriously been transformed into a small window that sits much higher in the wall and has no seat or shutters. And we can see that a round stone column has somehow sprouted up in the middle of the room approximately where the tea table was located in The Beast Below.

Obviously, the rectory scene in The Hunters was shot at a different location. Since The Hunters was the final episode of Season One, it may be that the rectory set used for the earlier episodes had already been dismantled by this time, so the production crew simply moved the furniture and props to a new location and tried to arrange them in approximately the same relationship as before. So where was the rectory relocated for this one episode? Look at the scenes in The Hunters where Fitz is held captive and questioned by Horton, and you have your answer. These scenes were all shot in the same space. In his first season audio tapes, Adrian Paul states that the rectory scene from The Hunters was shot near Compiegne. Two known Highlander shooting locations are in this area--Chateau Pierrefonds and the Abbaye de Chaalis. The medieval town of Provins, while not near Compiegne, was used as a shooting location for The Hunters as well as many other Highlander episodes, so it is also possible that this rectory scene could have been shot there.

Now, after having explored Darius' room and its contents, let's consider what they reveal about the personality of the man who calls it home. The first thing you notice is the proliferation of books. Every available inch of shelf space is full, and books are wedged horizontally on top of the volumes standing upright on the shelves. Just about every horizontal surface is piled high with stacks of books too, and they spill off onto the floor near the desk. All the books may not belong to Darius personally (some probably belong to the church or the religious order to which he belongs) but we can still guess that he is an avid reader, because so many of them sit open as if he had just put them down.

Some of the books are on military history, as we learn in Saving Grace, and since Darius was once a great general, these are probably his own books. We can also see evidence of his interest in military history in the battlefield model he is creating in Saving Grace. "You may be a priest, but you still think like a warrior," Duncan teases him, and Darius cannot disagree. "To deny what I was is to deny what I am, " he says. Although he is now a man of peace, he still studies war as "a great intellectual puzzle" while admitting that "in reality it's all blood and tears." The presence of the chess set, and his frequent games with Duncan attest to his keen enjoyment of this competitive game of strategy. And after all, the chess board is really just a miniature battlefield where kings and queens, knights and pawns are engaged in a struggle for supremacy. Darius the priest does not deny his warrior instincts, but merely channels them in a more civilized manner than he once did in his youth.

looking at cross, with armillary sphere behind him.

To speak of Darius' youth is to speak of Late Antiquity. In Band of Brothers, we learn that Darius is nearly 2000 years old--one of the really ancient Immortals. And to a degree, the rectory gives us a sense of his ancientness. Although we see nothing in the room that dates back before the Middle Ages, there is very little here that is really modern, except maybe the tape recorder in The Beast Below. Even the telephone and the electric lamps are from the earlier half of the 20th century. The armillary sphere is probably a true antique--the first ones were made in ancient Greece, and they were in use as astronomical instruments and teaching aids into the 17th century. The fact that Darius has one suggests an interest in the science of astronomy, or at the very least a taste for antique and esoteric objects (rather like another ancient Immortal we encounter in Season 3, whose apartment is filled with armillary spheres, sundials, and a great many old books written in dead languages). In art the armillary sphere has been used as an emblem of scientists and teachers (because it is a scientific instrument and a learning tool), as a symbol of worldly power (because it is a model of the earth and the known universe), and as an emblem of saints and mystics (because it suggests the cosmos). All of those associations are appropriate to Darius' character. He was once a conqueror seeking earthly power, but now he is a man of learning, a teacher, and a spiritual counselor.

The rectory is also full of reminders of Darius' spiritual vocation and his present position as a Catholic priest. The cloister/arcade and the carved wooden panels behind the desk have an ecclesiastic feel to them, but the biggest clue is the many crosses and crucifixes hanging on the walls and adorning the lectern. Darius even picks up a small wooden cross from the desk in For Tomorrow We Die This cross appears to have a loop in the top as if it might have been intended to be worn around the neck although there is no cord or chain visible. We never see Darius wearing a cross in any of the episodes, however.

We might also observe, as Darius himself does in Saving Grace, that the room is indeed "a little bit spartan." For all the inviting warmth of its atmosphere, the room has not a single rug and not a single sofa or comfortable chair for Darius or his visitors. All the chairs are of wood, with no cushions to be seen. Most of the furniture is plain, undistinguished, and functional. The bed gives the only hint of style or comfort, and for all we know the ancient mattress may feel like a sack of cement to sleep on. And while the room is not in any way cramped, we are given to understand that space is not plentiful at the rectory, because Darius' bedroom is also a "public" space, the office where he receives visitors and takes care of church business. So the "spartan" character of the rectory says something about Darius' life on Holy Ground--a simple and ascetic existence with few luxuries and not a great deal of privacy. The adjective "spartan" also reminds us of Darius' past as a military commander, because in Greek history the Spartans were famous as disciplined, courageous soldiers who could endure greater hardship than any others. As a Goth general, Darius probably lived in spartan fashion, at least while he was on campaign, and when he disbanded that army to become a monk, he exchanged one kind of disciplined, rigorous lifestyle for another. He is still a warrior, but now he serves under a different Commander, and most of his battles are for the souls of men.

The tour is now over, and it is time to leave. We take one last look around before returning to the sanctuary of Darius' Church, where we light candles and sit for awhile in the stillness of that holy place, remembering the Immortal who once dwelt within these ancient stone walls.

This article is Copyright ©2000 by tirnanog and may not be reproduced without permission.

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(This page last updated 02/28/2002)

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