What historically took centuries to construct was accomplished in three years in the building of the 11-story Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. This first Roman Catholic Cathedral to be erected in the western United States in 30 years began construction on May 1999 and was completed by the spring of 2002.

Spanish architect, Professor José Rafael Moneo has designed a dynamic, contemporary Cathedral with virtually no right angles. This geometry contributes to the Cathedral's feeling of mystery and its aura of majesty.

 

History

The Roman Catholic Church has never adopted one particular style of architecture. There has always been a appreciation for the creative spirit indigenous to the local community.

Founded in 1781 by 44 Hispanic people from the San Gabriel Mission area, the City of Los Angeles began its history with a distinctive diversity of peoples, of cultures, and of languages. Although various sections of Los Angeles became populated with dominant ethnic groups, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Mexican, Armenian, African American, Filipino, and Polish, among others, the Church chose to keep virtually all of the parish communities territorial, rather than designated by ethnicity.

Cathedral Design

The challenge in designing and building a new Cathedral Church was to make certain that it reflected the diversity of all people. Rather than duplicate traditional designs of the Middle Ages in Europe, the Cathedral is a new and vibrant expression of the 21st century Catholic peoples of Los Angeles.

Just as many European Cathedrals are built near rivers, Moneo considered the Hollywood Freeway as Los Angeles' river of transportation, the connection of people to each other. The site is located between the Civic Center and the Cultural Center of the city.

"I wanted both a public space," said Moneo, "and something else, what it is that people seek when they go to church." To the architect, the logic of these two competing interests suggested, first of all, a series of "buffering, intermediating spaces" -- plazas, staircases, colonnades, and an unorthodox entry.

Worshippers enter on the south side, rather than the center, of the Cathedral through a monumental set of bronze doors cast by sculptor Robert Graham. The doors are crowned by a completely contemporary statue of Our Lady of the Angels.

A 50 foot concrete cross "lantern" adorns the front of the Cathedral. At night its glass- protected alabaster windows are illuminated and can be seen at a far distance.

The 151 million pound Cathedral rests on 198 base isolators so that it will float up to 27 inches during a magnitude 8 point earthquake. The design is so geometrically complex that none of the concrete forms could vary by more than 1/16th of an inch.

The Cathedral is built with architectural concrete in a color reminiscent of the sun-baked adobe walls of the California Missions and is designed to last 500 years.