Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels (Los Angeles)

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Cathedral of
Our Lady of the Angels
Los Angeles Cathedral-2.jpg
34°3′30″N 118°14′45″W / 34.05833°N 118.24583°W / 34.05833; -118.24583Coordinates: 34°3′30″N 118°14′45″W / 34.05833°N 118.24583°W / 34.05833; -118.24583
Location 555 W. Temple St.
Los Angeles, California
Country United States
Denomination Roman Catholic
Founded 2002
Architect(s) Rafael Moneo
Style Postmodern architecture; deconstructivist elements
Completed 2002
Construction cost $250 million
Capacity 3,000 people
Length 333 feet (101 m) ; nave
Archdiocese Los Angeles
Archbishop Most Rev. José Horacio Gómez
Pastor(s) Fr. David Gallardo

The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, informally known as COLA or the Los Angeles Cathedral, is a Latin Church cathedral of the Roman Catholic Church in Los Angeles, California, United States of America. Opened in 2002, the cathedral serves as the mother church for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.[1] It is also the cathedra seat of Archbishop José Horacio Gómez.[2]

The structure replaced the Cathedral of Saint Vibiana, which was severely damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Under Cardinal Roger Mahony, the cathedral was constructed in postmodern architecture and formally opened in September 2002. There was considerable controversy over its deconstructivist and modernist design, as well as the high costs to complete the building, and the archdiocese's decision to build a crypt under the Cathedral.[3]

The cathedral is named in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary under the patronal title of Our Lady of the Angels, echoing the full name of the original settlement of Los Angeles (Spanish: El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles, or "The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels").[4] The cathedral is widely known for enshrining the relics of Saint Vibiana and tilma piece of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It is the mother church to approximately five million professed Catholics in the archdiocese.[5]


The cathedral was designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning Spanish architect Rafael Moneo.[1][6] Using elements of postmodern architecture, the church and the Cathedral Center feature a series of acute and obtuse angles while avoiding right angles. Contemporary statuary 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. The organ is opus 75 of Dobson Pipe Organ Builders of Lake City, Iowa and is a 105 rank/ 4 manual instrument that incorporates pipes from the 1929 Wangerin organ of St. Vibiana's Cathedral. Dobson's Opus 75 has a total of 6,019 pipes. It is the 89th largest pipe organ in North America and the 143rd largest in the world.[7] The St. Vibiana instrument was rebuilt in 1988 by Austin Organs[8] The organ case is approximately 60 feet (18 m) high, and is located approximately 24 feet (7.3 m) above the floor. To meet earthquake-stability requirements, the pipes and case are supported by a massive internal steel frame.[8]

In addition to the church, the cathedral grounds also include a mausoleum, gift shop, cafeteria, conference center, and clergy residences. The relics of Saint Vibiana are interred in the mausoleum, as are the remains of several past bishops, archbishops, and auxiliary bishops of Los Angeles. The size of the cathedral is 6,038 square meters (65,000 square feet).


The interior of the cathedral

The Cathedral of Saint Vibiana had served as the cathedral of the Los Angeles see since its completion in 1876. Soon after its completion, the diocese noted it to be of inferior construction quality and also too small for Los Angeles' rapidly growing population. In 1904, Bishop Thomas James Conaty gained permission from the Holy See to build a new cathedral to be named after Our Lady of Guadalupe and purchased a site on which to build the cathedral. However, an economic downturn in 1907 put a stop to the project; a Catholic parish church was later built on the site. In the 1940s, plans were drawn up for a new cathedral on Wilshire Boulevard that would seat 3,000 people, and in 1945 Archbishop John Joseph Cantwell announced that the Holy See approved the name "Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels". That cathedral was never built, however, as Cantwell died in 1947 and his successor, James Francis McIntyre, decided that building churches and schools was a more pressing need for the archdiocese. McIntyre gained permission from donors to redirect money donated to Cantwell's cathedral fund to fund construction of churches and schools.

The cathedral houses an original relic piece taken from the Tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe

The 1994 Northridge earthquake severely damaged the Cathedral of Saint Vibiana, which led the archdiocese to close the cathedral due to safety concerns. In January 1995 the archdiocese announced plans to build a new cathedral on the Saint Vibiana site, plans which necessitated the demolition of the old cathedral. This led to a lengthy legal battle between the archdiocese and preservationists, who argued that the cathedral was a city landmark and that it should be either incorporated into the new cathedral or otherwise saved. The archdiocese contended that restoring the old cathedral would cost $18–20 million, an amount that it contended no one would donate.[9]

This legal battle prompted the archdiocese to look to build the cathedral on a new site. In December 1996, the archdiocese announced it was purchasing a 5.6-acre (2.3 ha) site between Temple Street and the Hollywood Freeway from Los Angeles County at a cost of $10.85 million.[9] The archdiocese chose to retain the "Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels" name approved by the Vatican in the 1940s. The initially proposed budget for the project was $150 million, but as the charities and donations kept coming, the architects and builders were able to implement everything desired. The construction was supervised by Father Richard S. Vosko, a liturgical design consultant and priest of the Diocese of Albany who has overseen the design and renovation of numerous churches and cathedrals in the United States.[10] Construction began in 1998 and the cathedral was opened in September 2002 at the final cost of $189.7 million. Meanwhile, the old cathedral was eventually restored by developers Tom Gilmore and Richard Weintraub, who spent around $6 million converting it into an events center and performance venue.


The cathedral as pictured in its postmodern design on the corner of Grand Ave & Temple Street (side/rear view)

Cardinal Roger Mahony's decision to rebuild the Los Angeles Cathedral in such elaborate and postmodern architecture has drawn great criticism. Many argued that a church of that size and expense was unnecessary, overly-elaborate and the money could have been better spent on social programs.[11] 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 historical California Mission-style architecture and aesthetics. Certain conservatives also criticised the structure for being a "failed architecture" as it did not convey Christianity through its lack of iconography, and iconography that was aimed at being 'inclusive' instead of Catholic.[12]

The prices for some cathedral furnishings have also caused consternation. $5 million was budgeted for the altar, the main bronze doors cost $3 million, $2 million was budgeted for the wooden ambo (lectern) and $1 million for the tabernacle. $1 million was budgeted for the cathedra (bishop's chair), $250,000 for the presider's chair, $250,000 for each deacon's chair, and $150,000 for each visiting bishop's chair, while pews cost an average of $50,000 each. The cantor's stand cost $100,000 while each bronze chandelier/speaker cost $150,000.[13] The great costs incurred in its construction and Mahony's long efforts to get it built led critics to dub it the "Taj Mahony"[14] and the "Rog Mahal".[15]


The final resting place of actor Gregory Peck in the Cathedral's Crypt Mausoleum

The cathedral features a mausoleum in its lower level. The mausoleum contains 1,270 crypts and 4,746 columbarium niches for burials. Proceeds from the sale of memorials and burial spaces are placed in an endowment fund for financial stability of the cathedral.[16]

All past ordinaries of the archdiocese are memorialized in the mausoleum, including a future burial site for Cardinal Roger Mahony, and the remains of several ordinaries and auxiliary bishops who died before the cathedral was built were transferred there.[17] The tomb of Saint Vibiana was transferred to the cathedral from its previous location above the altar at the Cathedral of Saint Vibiana; the tomb is the centerpiece of the St. Vibiana Chapel located adjacent to the mausoleum.

The crypt mausoleum features a number of stained glass windows that were originally installed in Saint Vibiana's Cathedral. This idea was suggested by Mario Agustin Locsin, a renowned Liturgical Artist. Mario Locsin was one of the liturgical consultants of the renovation. Two new windows featuring guardian angels were placed at the entrance to the crypt mausoleum. The old cathedral windows were restored and new windows created by The Judson Studios.[18]

List of people buried at the Cathedral




2012 Grand Marian Procession through Downtown Los Angeles

On September 3, 2011, the Cathedral played host to a Votive Mass in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Mass marked the conclusion of the First Annual Grand Marian Procession organised by the Queen of Angels Foundation, an association of lay Catholic faithful founded by Mark Anchor Albert, dedicated to promoting devotion to Our Lady, Queen of Angels. The Procession and Mass saw the participation of over 50 Catholic communities from across Southern California, including Knights of Malta, Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, Knights of Columbus, Knights of Peter Claver, and many others. The Grand Marian Procession and Mass, which is intended to be an annual event, follows in the tradition of the Marian processions that were once a regular feature of Los Angeles' civic and religious life. The Mass was celebrated by the Cathedral's rector, Monsignor Kevin Kostelnik. Since 2011 the Queen of Angels Foundation has sponsored the annual Marian processions, Votive Masses, and fiestas in commemoration of Los Angeles’ birthday and the feast of Our Lady of the Angels. Archbishop Gomez has been the homilist and principal celebrant of the annual Mass since 2012. Future Grand Marian Processions and Masses will coincide with the City of Los Angeles’ official birthday celebrations on the last Saturday of August.

Every Wednesday afternoon, the cathedral holds an organ recital. It is free and open to the public.[20]

See also


  1. ^ a b "About: History". Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Retrieved July 18, 2011. 
  2. ^ "Archbishop José Horacio Gómez Velasco". David M. Cheney. Retrieved 21 January 2015. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ The Franciscan friars who founded the pueblo town named it for Santa Maria degli Angeli (Italian for "St. Mary of the Angels"), the locality within Assisi where St. Francis began his movement on a "little portion of land" called the Porziuncola.
  5. ^ "Welcome". Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Retrieved January 16, 2008. 
  6. ^ "About: Architect". Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Retrieved July 18, 2011. 
  7. ^ "About the Organ". Retrieved September 9, 2014.  External link in |website= (help)
  8. ^ a b "Cathedral of Our Lady of Angles". Retrieved July 18, 2011. 
  9. ^ a b "About: History". Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Retrieved March 16, 2011. 
  10. ^ Richard S. Vosko: Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels Archived 2011-12-13 at the Wayback Machine. retrieved May 23, 2011
  11. ^ "$2.5 Million Given for Fountain at New Cathedral". Los Angeles Times. November 15, 2001. Retrieved July 18, 2011. 
  12. ^ Rose, Michael. Ugly as Sin. 
  13. ^ "Weber, Msgr. Francis J. Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels". ISBN 0-9678477-6-1. Retrieved August 22, 2007. 
  14. ^ Haslam, Chris (February 24, 2008). "Art attack in LA". Sunday Times. London (UK). p. 4. 
  15. ^ Ordonez, Jennifer (April 10, 2006). "The Catholics: A Cardinal's Campaign; Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles is speaking out against crackdowns on illegals. How far will his voice carry?". Newsweek. 147 (16). p. 38. 
  16. ^ "Mausoleum: About". Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Retrieved July 18, 2011. 
  17. ^ Larry B. Stammer (16 March 2001). "The Lady Appears". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 18, 2011. 
  18. ^ "Mausoleum: Stained Glass Windows". Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Retrieved July 18, 2011. 
  19. ^ "Find A Grave: Gregory Peck". Retrieved September 21, 2006. 
  20. ^ "Organ Recital at the Cathedral". Retrieved September 9, 2014.  External link in |website= (help)

Further reading

  • Bühren, Ralf van: Kunst und Kirche im 20. Jahrhundert. Die Rezeption des Zweiten Vatikanischen Konzils, Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh 2008, pp. 609–610, ill. 85-87 (ISBN 978-3-506-76388-4)

External links

  • Official website
  • Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles official website
  • Cathedrals of California
  • Photo gallery on Figure Ground
  • Documentary film about John Nava's tapestries
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