Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels

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Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels
The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, also called the Los Angeles Cathedral, is a cathedral church of the United States in Los Angeles, California. It is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles and seat of its archbishop, currently Cardinal Roger Mahony. Consecrated and dedicated on September 2, 2002, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels replaced the smaller Cathedral of Saint Vibiana, which was severely damaged in the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. While some felt St. Vibiana's Cathedral was irreparably damaged, the site was eventually taken over by the city which sold the former cathedral building to developer Tom Gilmore in 1999 for $4.6M. Gilmore has spent an additional $6M renovating it and turning it into a performing arts complex, now named "Vibiana." It is mother church to over four million professed Catholics in the archdiocese. Our Lady of the Angels is home to the relics of Saint Vibiana, brought from Rome by Thaddeus Amat y Brusi, the first bishop of Los Angeles.

The cathedral was designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning Spanish architect Rafael Moneo . Using elements of postmodern architecture, the church and the Cathedral Center feature a series of acute and obtuse angles. There is an absence of right angles. Contemporary statuaries and appointments decorate the complex. Prominent of these appointments are the bronze doors and the statue called The Virgin Mary, all adorning the entrance and designed by Robert Graham. Like the later Oakland Cathedral of Christ the Light, which replaced the earthquake-damaged Saint Francis de Sales Cathedral, Our Lady of the Angels is a base isolated structure for protection against earthquake structural damage. The site of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels is 5.6 acres (23,000 m²) bound by Temple Street, Grand Avenue, Hill Street and the Hollywood Freeway. The 12-story high building can accommodate over 3,000 worshippers. The site includes the cathedral proper, a 2.5 acre (10,000 m²) plaza, several gardens and water features, the Cathedral Center (with the gift shop, the Galero Grill, conference center, and cathedral parish offices), and the cathedral rectory, the archepiscopal residence and some cathedral clergy. The entire complex is 58,000 square feet (5,000 m²). The main sanctuary is 333 feet (100 m) long (purposely one foot longer than St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City). The internal height varies from 80' over the baptistery at the rear (west) end to about 100' near the lantern window (east end). Among the artworks commissioned for the cathedral are the tapestries of the communion of saints by painter John Nava, and the plaza fountain by Lita Albuquerque and Robert Kramer. The cathedral is noted for having the largest use of alabaster in the country. They replaced the more traditional stained glass windows, providing the interior with soft, warm, subtly multi-hued illumination. The organ, built by Dobson Pipe Organ Builders of Lake City, Iowa, has 105 ranks of pipes, some of which were retained from the 1980 Austin organ from St. Vibiana's Cathedral. The case of the organ is approximately 60 feet (18 m) high, and is placed about 24 feet (7.3 m) above the floor.  The top of the organ's case is about 85 feet (26 m) above the cathedral's floor.

Estimates for the restoration of the earthquake damaged Cathedral of Saint Vibiana ranged around $180 million. The structure was eventually restored by developers Tom Gilmore and Richard Weintraub, who spent only around $6 million transforming it into an events center and performance venue. Because the old cathedral was known to be of rather inferior construction (something noted soon after its completion in 1876) and had been far too small for diocesan celebrations for decades, the archdiocese chose to build a new cathedral (ultimately on a new site). The decision to change venues was influenced in part by conservationists, who argued that the outmoded cathedral ought to be restored and preserved as a historic landmark, and the needs of the new cathedral itself — it was to have a capacity of approximately 3,000 worshipers, the same number as a cathedral design from the 1940s that was never built, yet provided the Holy See-approved name for the new cathedral. Initially, the proposed budget was $150 million, but as the charities and donations kept coming, the architects and builders were able to implement everything desired. Thus, the final cost of the new cathedral was $189.7 million. Cardinal Mahony's decision to rebuild the Los Angeles cathedral in such elaborate and post-modern architecture drew criticism from a number of critics both within and outside the Catholic Church, who argued that a church of that size and expense was unnecessary and overly-elaborate. Many felt that either St. Vincent Church on West Adams Boulevard or St. Basil Church on South Kingsley Drive could easily perform the functions required of a cathedral with minimal additional cost. Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral was also criticized for its departure from traditional California Mission-style architecture and aesthetics. The prices for some cathedral furnishings have also caused great consternation. $5M was budgeted for the altar or "table" -- essentially a giant slab of Rosso Laguna marble. The main bronze doors cost $3M. $2M was budgeted for the wooden ambo (lectern), and $1M for a very controversial tabernacle. $1M for the cathedra (bishop's chair). $250K for the presider's chair. $250K for each deacon's chair. Visiting bishops' chairs cost $150K each, while pews cost an average of $50K each. The cantor's stand cost $100K while each bronze chandelier/speaker cost $150K. The great costs incurred in its construction and Mahony's long efforts to get it built led critics to dub it the "Taj Mahony".

The Cathedral features a mausoleum in its lower levels. There are 6,000 mausoleum crypts and columbarium niches for burials.  A number of prior Bishops and Archbishops of the Los Angeles Archdiocese are buried in the crypt mausoleum. The laity are also permitted to purchase burial crypts or niches for their own use or use of their family members. The proceeds from the sale of spaces are placed in an endowment fund for financial stability of the Cathedral. The crypt mausoleum features a number of stained glass windows that were originally installed in Saint Vibiana's Cathedral.  Two new windows featuring guardian angels were placed at the entrance to the crypt mausoleum.  Both the new windows and the restoration of the old Cathedral's windows were done by The Judson Studios.

People buried at the Cathedral
  • Saint Vibiana, patron saint of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles
  • Thaddeus Amat y Brusi, first Bishop of Los Angeles
  • John Cantwell, first Archbishop of Los Angeles
  • James Francis McIntyre, second Archbishop of Los Angeles, who was created Cardinal
  • N.B. Unlike those of Cardinal McIntyre, the earthly remains of his successor, Cardinal Timothy Manning, were not re-interred at the OLAC Mausoleum and remain at Calvary Cemetery in Los Angeles in accordance with his wishes.
  • Bishop Juan Arzube
  • Bishop Thomas James Conaty
  • Bishop Carl Anthony Fisher
  • Gregory Peck, actor
  • June Marlowe, actress
Other laity
  • Bernardine Murphy Donohue, philanthropist and papal countess
  • Loretta Baron Mahony, mother of the current Archbishop of Los Angeles
  • Victor Mahony, father of the current Archbishop of Los Angeles
  • Robert Graham, sculptor


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Building Activity

  • Steven M Lopez
    Steven M Lopez commented
    as a native Angelino (and was resident of LA at the time) i was thoroughly disappointed and underwhelmed by this "cathedral". its horrid.
    about 4 years ago via Mobile
  • updated a digital reference
    about 5 years ago via Annotator
  • derekwikins
    derekwikins commented
    Without doubt the ugliest building in Los Angeles
    about 6 years ago via iPhone