Whatever your religious affiliations may be, or lack thereof, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles should not be missed on your tour of the city center. Personally, I enjoy visiting cathedrals, temples, or mosques no matter what religion or philosophy they may represent as there is always a special feeling in such places. And I particularly like to show off this cathedral to visitors.
This is by no means your grandfather’s cathedral. Opened in 2002, the complex was designed by Spanish architect Jose Rafael Moneo in a contemporary style to match the needs of the modern church.
The campus includes the cathedral with a mausoleum below, a meditation garden, gift shop, café, and open courtyard with fountains and sculptures. The spacious interior of the cathedral is one hundred feet at its highest point, and able to accommodate 3,000 people.
A unique feature is the 27,000 square feet of windows made of alabaster, giving the space a warm, diffuse glow. Tapestries hang throughout depicting saints and other religious persons.
When no services are scheduled you are free to walk around the interior sanctuary or nave from the baptistery to the altar. During masses or other occasions when the cathedral is in use, visitors can discreetly stand or sit at the rear. A couple of times I’ve been lucky enough to arrive during a full mass and have watched the procession of the cross.
The design of the cathedral is purposely asymmetrical with very few right angles suggesting the feeling of dynamic movement. The buildings are all constructed on isolators to withstand an 8.0 earthquake. Hopefully, that function will never need to be tested!
The mausoleum offers roughly 6,000 spaces for crypts and urns. One of the famous names you may notice is that of Gregory Peck. Beautiful stained glass windows decorate the walls.
Outside, the 156-foot-high campanile, or bell tower, sits separately from the main building. Other sets of bells, evoking the bells of the California Missions, greet visitors as they enter from the street.
The grounds are well laid out with plenty of places to sit and contemplate the meaning of life, or just to enjoy the pleasant surroundings in this oasis of serenity surrounded by the big city.
For a photo gallery click here.
(All photos copyright roslyn m wilkins)
You can find more information about the cathedral at http://www.olacathedral.org/index.html.
Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels
555 West Temple Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012-2707