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The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels

The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels is one of the most ground-breaking buildings which is able to inspire visitors with its warm, inviting interior, perfect for introspection. Open-air, blunt, lopsided walls stretch the definition of a cathedral, challenging visitors to rethink their ideas about sacred buildings. The Cathedral Advisory Board reflected several locations for the new cathedral, as a final point settling on the 5.6-acre site on Bunker Hill near the Hollywood Freeway. After Pritzker Prize-winning architect José Rafael Moneo was selected to design the new building, he began working closely with Cardinal Roger Mahoney to create a structure that would echo centuries of church design so far boom in a contemporary context. As Moneo put it, the building should be “one of those examples where 20th-century architecture touched the sense of the sacred.” 

There is greatness to this building. Commencing the freeway at night, the glowing alabaster panels behind the gigantic cross are a beacon. Up close, however, this church says, "Go Away." Which is a shame, as the interior is stunning, with the light streaming through the alabaster, the soft swale of the floor toward the altar, the baldacchino, and most of all the gorgeous tapestries, most especially the restrained, simple one at the baptismal font depicting the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist.

The cathedral itself was also purposely built to be 333 feet long, just one foot longer than St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York.

The lower level of the building is no less elaborate. A lightly textured and contemporary mausoleum featuring 6,000 crypts sits in the cathedral’s basement. A number of prior bishops and archbishops have been buried there, and Academy Award winner Gregory Peck is also interred in this sumptuous crypt. Today, vaults are available to members of the church. The tomb features stained glass windows from the original cathedral and Judson Studios, one of the oldest liturgical studios in North America.

Seating areas are limited. The courtyard is clearly expected to remain uncluttered by furniture, plants, or humans. Traverse it at your own risk. I half expected to see the bleached skeletons of unfortunate cattle scattered randomly across the baked, angry landscape, as one does along the highways of Utah and Nevada.


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