The interior of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels evokes many spiritual and emotional responses. It calls forth the aura of God's presence, that this is God's house. The ambulatory that surrounds the inside of the Cathedral invites us to the Sanctuary where we gather to offer worship through the celebration of the Eucharist.

There are two underlying theological truths essential to understanding the design of the Cathedral Church. The first is the LIGHT of God revealed in salvation history, especially in and through Jesus Christ.

The second is the sense of JOURNEY which describes our evolving relationship with God. We are on the journey, alone and together as the People of God, on pilgrimage, towards redemption in our lives. Therefore, as we walk away from the darkness of evil, we move towards the saving Light of Christ and the fullness of the Kingdom of God in Heaven.

John's Gospel (John 8:12) captures these fundamental principles.

"Jesus spoke to them again, saying 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'"

Inspired by the themes of LIGHT and JOURNEY, architect Professor José Rafael Moneo chose natural light to flood the Cathedral. Sunlight streams through glass-sheltered, Spanish alabaster mosaics, combining the opaque white of alabaster with its various hues of earth tones -- red, yellow, brown, orange and rust. Light also enters the Cathedral and devotional chapels by way of large, slanted shafts, reminiscent of those used by the early Franciscans when they designed the California Missions.

The Cathedral features the largest single use of alabaster windows in the world--some 33,500 square feet. This powerful natural light emphasizes the purity and beauty of God's creation.

The Cathedral's interior design captures the principle of a spiritual journey. Unlike most Cathedrals, we are not entering through a rear door near the last pews. Rather, we enter the ambulatory which circles the interior of the Cathedral.

The ambulatory urges us forward, on a slight incline, heightening our sense of an upward journey, past various devotional chapels that open onto the walkway, not onto the Cathedral's worship space, allowing a more meditative environment for devotional prayer.

The light and diversity of shapes draws people forward along the ambulatory and around the corner to the Baptistery and the enormous public worship space.

The journey brings people to the light of the nave and the place of Baptism, the entry into the life of Christ and His Church. The font is designed to accommodate Baptism by immersion. The steps lead from the far side down into the immersion pool. People descend with sinfulness into the waters of Baptism and are freed from sin through the power of Jesus Christ.

The Baptized person emerges onto the nave side where the People of God are assembled and makes the journey forward to the Altar to share in the Eucharistic Presence of the Risen Lord.

Four red carnelian granite fonts on each corner of the immersion pool have a continuous flow of living water, holy water for blessings, and a reminder for all of their Baptism.

The Cathedral's 300 foot nave is the place for the gathering of the faithful. Fixed seating allows for 1,900 people and an additional 1,100 in moveable seating, for a total of 3,000 people.

By its design, the nave encourages the full and active participation of all people in the Liturgy. No pillars block vision because nine steel trusses and the chapel structures on each side support the soaring, cedar wood ceiling. The dynamic effect results from Moneo's design that avoids right angles and symmetry.

In traditional style, the Cathedral faces east, the direction of Jerusalem, the holy city, and the rising sun. Morning sun enters the Cathedral through the great alabaster windows and continues through the day, bringing a constantly changing texture of light.

Somewhere above the Altar is a laminated plaque placed on the underside of the cedar panels by the workers who built the ceiling. It contains several Scripture verses, including, "As the sparrow finds a home and the swallow a nest to settle her young, my home is by your altars, Lord of hosts, my king and my God!" (Psalm 84:4-5).

All the workers signed it "in order," they said, "to honor the Lord and to acknowledge the privilege we have felt working on the project." Just imagine future workers repairing the ceiling and finding this plaque from 2002!

To the right of the altar on the wall is the grand pipe organ, rising 85 feet and stretching 28 feet across at its widest point. It is encased in unusual and precious cherry wood, used for the pews and other structural woodwork in the Cathedral. The choir space is under the organ, positioned so as not to distract from the liturgy, but to aid the assembly in singing hymns.

To the left of the altar, high on the wall, is a huge architectural cross. Light pours through alabaster into the church along the slanted crossbeam. The cross is the emblem of Christ, "the Light of the world."

The place behind and to the left of the Altar is the Presbyterium, where the priests gather around the Bishop to concelebrate the Liturgy. It can hold 300 priests.

This vast space also accommodates many risers allowing choral groups to perform. The Los Angeles Master Chorale, Philharmonic and others will perform sacred concerts in the Cathedral.

Two transepts on either side of the Sanctuary allow the assembly to gather around the altar. This cruciform structure is traditional in Catholic churches and represents the cross on which Jesus died.

Sixty thousand Spanish, Jana limestone stones pave the Cathedral floor in a circular pattern emanating from the Altar, providing a visual reminder that the celebration of the Eucharist is at the center of our faith. Each stone was purchased by donations from individuals and families in honor of their loved ones. Donors, honorees and memorials are eternally remembered and displayed in a special hand-inscribed Archival Register. A computerized display is also available to direct donors, honorees and visitors to the location of the designated paving stones. Some stones are still available for memorial giving.

The Cathedral enjoys some interesting comparisons with other Cathedrals.

----It is 1000 feet smaller than Notre Dame in Paris.
----It is 21 feet higher than the Washington National Cathedral.
----It is 32,000 square feet larger than San Francisco's Grace Cathedral.
----It is one foot longer than St. Patrick's in New York. This was not true in the original plans, but topping New York by one foot was too much fun to avoid, a little inside joke even amongst the clergy.

back to top