Designed by an award-winning Spanish architect, the Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles opened in 2002. In addition to its striking architecture, it is notable for its remarkable modern art and important Catholic shrines.
History of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels
The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels replaces the Cathedral of Saint Vibiana, which was built in 1876 and severely damaged in the 1994 earthquake. After considerable controversy over the question of rebuilding the old structure, a decision was made to move to a new site in 1996. The former cathedral building was sold to to developer Tom Gilmore in 1999, who transformed it into a performing arts complex called Vibiana.
When he announced the new site in 1996, Cardinal Roger Mahony also revealed that the new cathedral would be named the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, a title already approved by the Pope in 1945 when unfulfilled plans were made for reconstruction of St. Vibiana's. The title reflects the original name of Los Angeles when it was founded in 1781: El Pueblo de nuestra Señora, Reina de los Angeles, "City of Our Lady, Queen of the Angels." Her feast day of September 4 is observed each year.
The cathedral's present site was owned by the City and used as a parking lot until the Diocese purchased it in 1996 for $10.85 million. The original budget for building a new cathedral was estimated at $150 million, but plentiful donations allowed for a final cost of $189.7 million.
Ground Blessing Ceremonies took place on Sunday, September 21, 1997 and construction began in October 1998. The formal blessing and dedication of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels took place on September 2, 2002.
What to See at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels
The cathedral complex includes a large courtyard, parking lot, cafe, and shrine, covering a total of 58,000 square feet. The cathedral itself is 333 feet long, which is purposely one foot longer than St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York, and rises to an internal height of 80 feet at the west end to about 100 feet at east end by the altar. The tall belltower is detached from the cathedral building in the Italian tradition.
The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels is an impressive and unusual building that makes minimal use of right angles and incorporates the latest techniques for earthquake safeguards. It was designed by Rafael Moneo, a Pritzker-prize-winning architect from Spain, who chose "Light" and "Journey" as his unifying themes. The interior is brightly illuminated by high windows made of Spanish alabaster and the entrance leads into a large ambulatory that inclines slightly as it approaches the light-filled altar.
The bronze doors and the statue of the Virgin Mary over the entrance were designed by Robert Graham, a local California sculptor and husband of Angelica Houston. He died in December 2008, shortly after being inducted into the California Hall of Fame. His large funeral was held at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. His lovely statue of the Virgin Mary is described by the cathedral this way:
Instead of the usual biblical scenes, the bronze doors of this cathedral are decorated with a fascinating array of cultural and symbolic images, which incorporate Christian mystical numbers (3 for the Trinity, 4 for the Gospels, 7 as the perfect number, 8 for resurrection, 40 for the days in the desert, and so on). At the bottom of the inner doors, a grapevine contains 40 ancient symbols such as the eagle, griffin, goose, Southwest Indian Flying Serpent, bee, hand, ostrich, dove, Chinese turtle, Samoan kava bowl, the Native American Chumash man, and the dolphin.
Above this are 15 manifestations of the Virgin Mary from Europe and the New World, including the Immaculate Conception, Virgin of Guadalupe, Pietá, Mater Dolorosa, Virgin of Pomata, Virgin of the Rosary of Chichinquira, Divine Shepherdess, Virgin of the Cave, Virgin of the Candlestick and others.
The interior is decorated with three sets of earth-toned tapestries by painter John Nava. The side walls of the nave are covered with 25 tapestries titled the Communion of Saints, depicting 135 saints and blesseds from around the world, including North America. Each one was carefully researched and designed using a combination of traditional and modern methods. The artist expressed his desire that people would identify with the portraits, realizing that "a saint could look like me."
Behind the baptismal font are the five Baptistery Tapestries, centering on a depiction of the Baptism of Christ. The east wall is decorated with seven Altar Tapestries featuring a schematic map of Los Angeles converging with a Cosmatesque design. A quote from the Book of Revelation sewn into these tapestries reads, "See, God's dwelling is among mortals. God will dwell with them. They will be God's people and God will be with them."
The cathedral includes a large crypt mausoleum in its lower level, containing 6,000 places for burials. It is decorated with stained glass windows from Saint Vibiana's Cathedral and two new windows of guardian angels. Proceeds from the sale of burial spaces are placed in an endowment fund for financial stability of the Cathedral.
Notable among those entombed here are previous bishops of Los Angeles, actor Gregory Peck, actress June Marlowe, and Saint Vibiana, a 3rd-century Roman martyr and the patron saint of Los Angeles. Her relics were discovered in the Roman catacombs in 1853, under a Latin plaque dedicated "to the soul of the innocent and pure Vibiana, laid away the day before the kalends of September [August 31]." They were brought to Los Angeles in 1854, where the Cathedral of St. Vibiana was built in her honor.
Quick Facts on the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels
|Names:||Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels|
|Dedication:||Virgin Mary (of the Angels)|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||34.058088° N, 118.245565° W|
|Address:||555 West Temple St.|
Los Angeles, California
|Lodging:||View hotels near the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels|
- About: History - official website of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels
- Architecture - official website
- Saint Vibiana - archdiocese of Los Angeles
- Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels - Wikipedia (accessed April 2009)
- Photos of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels - here on Sacred Destinations
Map of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles
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