Photograph by Julius Schulman & David Glomb.
All rights reserved

Many people think of a Cathedral as simply a large Church. What makes a Cathedral special is a chair, in Latin the "Cathedra," or Bishop's chair. From this chair the Archbishop exercises his leadership responsibilities of teaching, governing and sanctifying.

Unlike the Cathedras in many Cathedrals that are very large, but not to human scale, Jefferson Tortorelli designed a chair that fits a human, but has the presence needed to fit the Cathedral. He built a basic chair, then extended the two ebony arms outward as if welcoming the assembly. He comments, "If you looked to a friend, or if your children are coming to you, a lot of times you will just kind of open your arms, spread them out to embrace."

The back of the chair is composed of linked crosses which float in the framework. Each cross is made from different woods from around the world, olive wood from Israel, carob wood from Lebanon, coca bola from Central America, ebony from Africa, holly from the United States, lacewood from Australia and buena burro from Thailand. The woods symbolize the various communities and ethnic backgrounds that compose the Los Angeles community.

Tortorelli used the age-old techniques of joiner in the construction of the 800 lb. Cathedra. There was no use of mechanical fasteners. All the pieces built of wood are joined together in such a manner that they are locked, such as in a puzzle.

The Cathedra's substructure is on a steel platform fabricated by welder Dan Tillbury. Tortoreli also used steel in the framework of the chair, which stands 74 inches tall.

As future generations view his work, Tortorelli wants adults and, particularly, children, to look at the Cathedra and see the inlaid crosses. "I want them to see the beautiful colors that together make up this beautiful mosaic." He hopes they can see the openness of the faith of his Catholic Church in the outstretched ebony arms.

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