Every Diocese and Archdiocese must have a "Mother Church," a Cathedral Church, which is the official seat of the Bishop or Archbishop. The very word "Cathedral" comes from the Latin word, "cathedra," which means "chair." The Bishop's Chair is a symbol of his teaching office and pastoral authority in the Diocese, and a sign also of the unity of believers in the faith that the Bishop or Archbishop proclaims as shepherd of the Lord's flock. Wherever the Bishop or Archbishop locates his chair becomes the most important Church in the Archdiocese.

St. Vibiana's Cathedral

Plans for a Cathedral in Los Angles began as early as 1859. Eventually, the Cathedral on Main and Second Streets was built and dedicated to St. Vibiana in 1876 by Archbishop Joseph Sadoc Alemany of San Francisco, and completed four years and $80,000 later. Using land donated to the Church by Amiel Cavalier, architect Ezra Kysor designed the building. The interior was remodeled about 1895, using onyx and marble. The exterior facade of the building was changed from 1922-24 to give it its present look, said to be based on a Roman design.

The Journey to the New Cathedral Site

When the City of Los Angeles condemned the old St. Vibiana's Cathedral in 1996, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles was left without a Cathedral Church. With a population of approximately four million Catholics, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles needed a Cathedral Church that could accommodate nearly three thousand people for special Liturgies and services. It is in the tradition and practice of the Catholic Church to locate the Cathedral Church in the heart of the downtown, civic center of the city.

The plans announced in January, 1995 were to remain at the historic site of St. Vibiana's Cathedral. The old Cathedral, ravaged by earthquakes over the years, and closed since May, 1995 because of damage sustained during the 1994 Northridge earthquake, was to be torn down, and a new Cathedral Church was to be built on that general site.

However, historical preservationists intervened and demanded that the old Cathedral be saved and incorporated into the new one. Such a proposal was impossible to consider because the old Cathedral lacked a foundation, reinforced walls and essential seismic safeguards. Legal challenges ensued, including court injunctions delaying the demolition.

The Archdiocese's engineers and contractors estimated that it would cost a minimum of eighteen to twenty million to save the old structure. No one, including the preservationists, would donate the kind of money needed to save the old Cathedral building.

On July 22, 1996 it was announced that a new site would be sought for the new Cathedral. On September 14, 1996 the Cathedral Advisory Board met with Design Architect, Professor José Rafael Moneo, to consider eight possible sites -- six of them in downtown Los Angeles. The Board members walked the sites, and decided upon the 5.6 acre site bounded by Temple Street, Grand Avenue, Hill Street, and the Hollywood Freeway.

At that time the property was used as a parking lot and was owned by the County of Los Angeles, which agreed to sell the site to the Archdiocese. The sale was completed and formally announced on December 23, 1996. The sale price was $10.85 million.

The New Cathedral

When Cardinal Roger Mahony announced the decision to re-locate to the new site, he also announced that the wonderful title of Our Lady of the Angels, already confirmed by the Holy See and announced in 1945 by then Archbishop John J. Cantwell, would be the title for the new Cathedral Church. September 4th each year is observed as her feast-day, and recalls the 1781 founding of the City, originally called El Pueblo de nuestra Señora, Reina de los Angeles.

The official Ground Blessing Ceremonies took place on Sunday, September 21, 1997. Construction on the site began in October 1998 with work on the Parking Garage. Excavation for the foundations of the Cathedral began in May, 1999. The formal Blessing and Dedication will take place on September 2, 2002.

The new site is ideal for a Cathedral Church. It sits on an elevated section of downtown Los Angeles, the old Bunker Hill, where it is seen by millions of people each year as they travel the busy Hollywood Freeway.

Located between the Civic Center and the Cultural Center of the city, the Cathedral embraces both and enriches the entire downtown community. Easy access to major freeways helps link the new Cathedral Church to all 302 parish churches of the Archdiocese.

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