- "This.. A key to one of the largest Massassi temples on this moon. I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say to say it holds great strategic value."
- ―Alliance general Jan Dodonna, on the key contained in the Yavin Vassilika
The Great Temple, commonly referred to as the Massassi Temple, was built on Yavin 4 by the Massassi to worship Naga Sadow, a Sith Lord who had enslaved and mutated the Massassi using Sith alchemy. The Temple later housed the Rebel Alliance base, known as Massassi Base, and the Jedi Praxeum. The Temple was destroyed during the Yuuzhan Vong occupation of Yavin 4.
Around 5000 BBY, having fled the Great Hyperspace War, the Sith Lord Naga Sadow hid in the jungles of Yavin 4 alongside his loyal Sith warriors called the Massassi. They settled on a site on the Ersham Ridge covered with thick rainforests, and Sadow ordered his warriors to clear the area and start building moliminous monuments in his honor. Through alchemical experimentations, the Sith Lord mutated the Massassi, turning them into dark side-wielding monsters. One of the monuments built by the Massassi on the jungle moon was the Great Temple, a colossal ziggurat of stone.
The Great Temple was so huge that it seemed impossible it could have been built without the aid of modern gravitonic construction techniques, yet all evidence pointed to mere hand technology and simple machines. How such an enormous structure was built was still a matter of speculation at the time of the Galactic Civil War. The method used by Sadow's slaves to cut and transport metric-ton monoliths from the crust of the moon without disturbing the surface remained a mystery to modern-day scientists.
The Massassi continued to worship Naga Sadow at the Temple, even after he entered a state of hibernation inside a sarcophagus. The former Sith warriors perpetuated that cult for over a thousand years, long after their god's presumed death at the hands of Freedon Nadd, until Exar Kun eliminated most of their numbers in 3996 BBY. However, Kun allowed the Massassi warrior Kalgrath to remain behind in the isolation chambers, guarding the Temple in a state of hibernation.
Galactic Civil War
- "I grow tired of asking this so it will be the last time: Where is the rebel base?"
- ―Grand Moff Tarkin to Princess Leia Organa
During the Galactic Civil War, Rebel Alliance scout Dr'uun Unnh discovered the temple. The Alliance chose Yavin 4 due to its exclusion from official Imperial maps, after being forced to secretly abandon their former base on Dantooine. After retrieving the Temple's key from the Yavin Vassilika, a fabled gem-like statuette, Alliance generals Jan Dodonna and Roons Sewell were tasked with establishing the "Massassi Station"—also known as "Yavin Base," callsign "Base One"—within the Great Temple. That same year, the Star Tours security check-in droid G2-9T heard of the base, and accidentally let slip of its existence before stopping himself. However, despite the revelation of that imprudent droid, the Empire did not get wind of the base's location until one year later.
Following its refit by the Alliance, the interior of the Great Temple had changed so much that its original Massassi builders would never have recognized it. The rock walls had been mostly replaced with metal, and poured paneling had been used to divide chambers instead of wood. The Rebels had also excavated new layers into the rock below the ziggurat to create a series of underground hangars linked by a turbolift platform. On the ground level and upper floors, many rooms had been converted for modern service, such as the War Room. Only the Grand Audience Chamber, a vast throne room located on the uppermost level of the Great Temple had been spared, for it had been deemed too beautiful and clean for the technicians to modify. The proper maintenance of the new base required an abundance of staff, including a janitor and several deck officers, some of whom were barely kids at the time. Additionally, a section of the base was given over to refugees.
One year after the establishment of the Massassi Station, the Rebel Alliance launched its assault on the first Death Star from this facility. After the battle, the Royal Award Ceremony was held in the Great Temple to honor the victors. However, the time of revelry proved to be short-lived. Six months after the destruction of the Death Star over Yavin, the Rebel Alliance was forced to abandon the Great Temple. During the evacuation, General Dodonna set off a series of concussion charges in the Temple. The sabotage knocked out a squadron of TIE/IT Interdictor starfighters and the General was presumed killed.
Luke Skywalker established his Jedi Praxeum in the temple in 11 ABY. It was attacked in 12 ABY by Admiral Natasi Daala's forces. Later that same year, Kyle Katarn confronted, and after an intense battle in the underground portion of the Temple, defeated the Dark Jedi Desann during the Empire Reborn assault. In 14 ABY, Tavion Axmis commanded her Reborn to suck the Force energy out of the above-ground portion of the Temple. The temple was partially demolished in 23 ABY during the Third Battle of Yavin, but promptly reconstructed by a joint New Republic-Jedi effort throughout 24 ABY.
- "There's one place that we haven't touched, though—the Grand Audience Chamber at the top of the Temple. All of the instructors and students here agree that it is just too beautiful to change."
- ―Luke Skywalker to Anakin Solo
Internally, the Great Temple was divided into four levels, each representing a step of the ziggurat—each level was thus larger in floor plan than the one above, but all were outfitted on broadly similar plans with small cells, chambers and corridors around a large central space.
When the Rebel Alliance set-up their base, the outer surface of the Massassi Temple was left as untouched as possible. Interior chambers, however, were roughly hewn by the Rebels prior to being filled in with chambers and a main central lift cluster. Rebel engineers also reinforced the temple's original stone floors with ferrocrete. The base was powered by a generating station composed of stolen Imperial Star Destroyer reactor components two kilometers from the temple.
The topmost level, was almost entirely taken up by the Grand Audience Chamber, used as a ceremonial hall by the Alliance garrison and later employed by the Jedi Academy as a teaching space. Under the Alliance, the next level contained officers' quarters, and the base's security, communications and medical facilities, with the central room serving as a command center; the Jedi would later convert this level entirely to accommodation and storage. On the level below, the central chamber was outfitted by the Alliance as the War Room, later re-named as the Strategy Center by the Jedi: this was where the Alliance commanders coordinated the fighter attack on the first Death Star in 0 BBY. The surrounding rooms on this level, used as stores and technical workshops by the Alliance, were converted by the Jedi to meeting-rooms, communications and computing bays, and kitchens and dining halls.
The lowest level of the temple was used by the Rebels and the Jedi alike as a vast hangar bay to store starfighters and other vehicles; there was also a second hangar beneath, plus cellars and catacombs that remained largely unused in both phases of reoccupation. Access to the hangar was by a set of ground-level blast-doors, opening out onto a landing pad.
A viaduct was located near the Temple's entrance, along with an altar and a fountain with stone pillars. An overlook was available across a canyon.
During the Jedi period, the average ground level around the structure's exterior had risen, so that the main entrance was at War Room level, and many of the students thought of the entire hangar complex as being essentially underground - although the hangar doors must have remained accessible, the area in front of them no longer served as the main landing zone. The entrance faced a clearing, while a river now flowed close to the temple along the other two sides. Also during this time, a room known as the Hall of Judgment was built within the temple.
The Jedi divided some spaces into sleeping and refresher units for the students, and hanged heavy drapes above the window holes. The original windows of the Temple had no glass because of Yavin 4's warm climate. However, heavy storms would arise every few months, and rain would whip through the jungle while the temperature dropped significantly. When that happened, the drapes kept the temple dry and warm.
Behind the scenes
The Great Temple was first seen in Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope, the first installment of the original trilogy, which was released in 1977. The temple exterior was actually filmed in the ruins of the Mayan city of Tikal, Guatemala. A matte painting based on a concept art by Ralph McQuarrie was also used to portray the front entrance of the Great Temple. This painting was enhanced digitally for the 1997 Special Edition release of the film.
In the rough draft of A New Hope, the "Mavassi outpost" was an Imperial installation located on Yavin. Princess Leia was imprisoned here, and Annikin Starkiller and his Wookee allies attempted to free her, but she had already been sent to the Imperial space fortress. The building became the "Massassi Outpost" and a Rebel base in the second draft of the story.
Throughout the history of the Expanded Universe, there have been many different descriptions of the Great Temple. In the 1980s early series of comics Classic Star Wars, which was drawn by Al Williamson, the Great Temple closely resembled some of the real monuments found on the site of Tikal, especially the shrine summit of the Temple IV, with only two levels and a rectangular base. Later sources tend to portray the temple as a ziggurat—a terraced pyramid—but disagree on the global shape and number of levels. While both Galaxy Guide 2: Yavin and Bespin and Geonosis and the Outer Rim Worlds described the Great Temple as a pyramid with a square base and four levels, the video games Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds and Star Wars: Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike portrayed it as a truncated cone, and Inside the Worlds of Star Wars Trilogy had it standing on an octogonal base. The Official Star Wars Fact File 37 stated that the temple had seven stories, while The Complete Star Wars Encyclopedia argued that it consisted of five distinct levels, plus an observation deck at the top.
In Star Wars: Battlefront and in Star Wars: Battlefront II, the station was depicted as being a small, grim-looking hangar with a control room in the back. However, in Star Wars: Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, it was depicted as having a more elaborate interior, with hangars, training rooms, and the Grand Audience Chamber. The 2001 video game Star Wars: Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader featured an alternate history scenario where Darth Vader attacks the Rebels on Yavin 4 in revenge for the Death Star. The player, flying in Vader's TIE Advanced x1, can fly into the Great Temple to attack the Rebel transports there. In Star Wars: Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike, it was seen as containing a large hangar, and many rooms, including the room where Princess Leia and other Rebel leaders were stationed during the Battle of Yavin.
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