On July 27, an enormous spider was seen descending from the Notre Dame Cathedral in Ottawa, Ontario. But rather than the stuff of horror movies, the robotic spider was part of an event for the French street theater company La Machine, which was opening their Canadian show in celebration of the country’s 150th anniversary that night.
The spider’s name is Kumo. All necessary permissions were secured from Archbishop Terrence Prendergast for the show, who saw it as an opportunity to give back to the local Ottawa community.
“This once in a lifetime event celebrates the 150th Anniversary celebration of Canada's Confederation,” the archbishop said in a statement. “It offers an opportunity for the archdiocese, the Catholic community and Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica to cooperate with the city and the organizers to foster a positive relationship with the community at large.”
The statement from Archbishop Prendergast website calls the event “an opportunity for a positive civic relationship by joining in the Capital’s celebrations of our 150th, Ottawa 2017.” He also notes the chance “to foster a positive relationship with the community at large as well as with many tourists.”
Some, however, derided the event as sacrilegious and even blasphemous or demonic, complaining to the archdiocese. Archbishop Terrence dismissed such concerns, but did see some symbolic value in the event. “To the extent that we did see symbolism, it was that, afterward, Our Lady would continue to reign, something I mentioned in a tweet right after the Thursday performance, as people I respect began to make their objections known.”
Planning for the event began last year. Organizers hoped to give the impression that Kumo was approaching another large spider sculpture, named “Mama,” in front of the National Art Gallery across from the cathedral. The performance began with Kumo “waking up” to organ music from within the church.
It is worth noting that in medieval times, performances in front of churches were common, often depicting biblical events.
The giant robot spider garnered quite a lot of attention on Twitter, where it spawned a parody account at the suggestion of Catholic Twitter user Tommy Tighe. I came out to have a good time and I'm honestly feeling so attacked right now.— Kumo the RoboSpider (@CathRoboSpider) August 2, 2017