Church doors symbolize a bridge over which we may travel back and forth across the ages on our journey of faith. The great Bronze Doors, situated on the southeast side of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, were designed by the Mexican born, Los Angeles sculptor, Robert Graham. Nearly five years in the making, they were built by some 150 artists.

Graham divided the 30' X 30' space for the South Doors into five, geometrically balanced shapes. First he apportioned the height and width into thirds, and took the top third as the tympanum (ornamental space). The remaining two-third was divided again into thirds, forming the two large, L-shaped doors surrounding two inner doors. He created a door within a door, with four separate parts that operate in various configurations as they open and close.

Though most great doors into cathedrals are full of images of holy men and women and biblical stories from the Old and New Testaments, Graham's doors are different than any Christian worship space in the world. Graham considers that these other doors were "history books and storytelling books," in an age before printing or before general literacy. The need for this depiction is no longer necessary. Rather, he preferred to create images that are "culturally recognizable."

Beginning at the bottom of the inner doors, Graham has sculpted in relief a grapevine, symbolizing the Church. Folded in the grapevine are 40 ancient symbols that represent pre-Christian images from Europe, Asia, Africa and North America. The images include the eagle, griffin, goose, Southwest Indian Flying Serpent, bee, hand, ostrich, dove, Chinese turtle, Samoan kava bowl, the Native American Chumash man, the dolphin, the Tree of Jesse, Tai Chi, and many others. The number 40 is a mystical number in Scripture from 40 years of the Israelites wandering in the desert, Jesus' 40 days in the desert, and His ascension 40 days after Easter, among others.

Numerology played an important part in the design of the doors in abstract connotations. He considers the most important being 3 for the Trinity in the triangle shape and 4 for the Gospels, and their combination equaling 7, also an important number in Scripture.

Progressing above the ancient part of the doors are different visions of the Virgin from images that are European in origin, but have been filtered through the indigenous cultures that the Europeans brought to Christianize the New World. They include such images as the Immaculate Conception, the Virgin of Guadalupe, the Pietá, the Mater Dolorosa, the Virgin of Pomata, Virgin of the Rosary of Chichinquira, Divine Shepherdess, Virgin of the Cave, Virgin of the Candlestick, Virgin of Mercy, and others.

The immense outer doors, each in the shape of an inverted L, are hollow, narrowing from a yard wide at the far left and right to just inches wide in the middle. Although they weigh 25 tons, they open easily, rotating on steel posts with a sophisticated hydraulic system. The powerful motor can open either the solid inner doors or the hollow outer doors or, for maximum effect, the two pairs of doors in majestic sequence.

The doors each are scored with seven diagonal lines, perhaps suggesting the seven cardinal virtues or the seven sacraments. The lines also form various triangles evoking the Holy Trinity and leading directly to the Our Lady of the Angels' statue above.

The ornamental space above the pair of bronze doors contains the 8 foot image of Our Lady of the Angels. The modern figure is presented as a woman "clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet" (Revelations 12:1). The halo shaft above her head shines God's light on her as the sun travels from east to west.

Mary does not wear the traditional veil. Her arms are bare, outstretched to welcome all. Her carriage is confident, and her hands are strong, the hands of a working woman. From the side can be seen a thick braid of hair down her back that summons thoughts of Native American or Latina women. Other characteristics, such as her eyes, lips and nose convey Asian, African and Caucasian features. Without the conventional regal trappings of jewels, crown or layers of clothing, she has a dignity that shines from within.

Originally, two bronzed angels were to be placed one on each side of Our Lady of the Angels. However, the first Spanish name for Los Angeles was El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora, Reina de los Angeles. Mary is Queen of Los Angeles, so the people in her city are her angels.

(Left Inner Door, left to right)

1. Virgin of Pomata -- This image from the Andes village comes from the late-colonial School of Cuzco. Mary wears a feathered Inca headdress and a billowing dress suggestive of Pachamama, the Inca mountain goddess.

2. Apocalyptic Virgin/Immaculate Conception - Inspired by Revelations 12, Mary is depicted with powerful wings crushing the Satanic serpent. The lily symbolizes her purity.

3. Ex Voto to Virgin of Guadalupe - As the text below the image indicates, the child was healed by the mother's prayers to the Virgin of Guadalupe. The mother has left this picture at the Guadalupe shrine as an offering, an ex voto (from the Latin "out of vow"), to thank Mary for her intercession.

4. Divine Shepherdess - Mary is depicted reclining in the field with four sheep to commemorate her appearance to a holy Spanish monk.

5. Virgin of the Candlestick with Virgins of Belén - The large image shows Mary again in a billowing dress from the School of Cuzco. She holds a blanket over her arm and cradles the infant Jesus. The small images are of Mary as she appeared in Belén, Peru.

6. Virgin of the Rosary of Chichinquira - St. Andrew flanks Mary on the right and St. Anthony on the left. St. Anthony , known as "the Christographer" is depicted with an image of Jesus on a book. Robert Graham used his mother's rosary to adorn the image.

7. Virgin of Mercy - The souls in Purgatory are protected by the Virgin's cloak as they beg for her intercession.

(Right Inner Door, left to right)

8. Virgin of Guadalupe - In remembrance of her appearance to Aztec peasant, St. Juan Diego, the image depicts the thornless roses she instructed him to pluck in the cold of winter. Mary stands on the moon, with the sun over her head (Revelations).

9. Virgin of the Cave - In the Spanish Caribbean this image of Mary was miraculously recovered from a cave and could bring about miracles.

10. Virgin of Montserrat -One of the "Black Madonnas" of Europe, Mary holds a black Jesus in this image from Catalonia.

11. Pietá - Depicted often in historic works of art, this is the image of Mary embracing her crucified Son.

12. Chalice with Sheep - The sheep of Christ's flock drink His blood, which spurts from His pierced hand into the chalice, reminding of the Eucharist.

13. Mater Dolorosa, the Sorrowful Mother - At the top of Mary's image are the tools of the Crucifixion.
14. La Mano Todopodereosa, the All-Powerful Hand -Anna, Mary, Jesus, Joseph, Joachim are depicted on the five fingers. Anna and Joachim were Mary's parents.

15. Virgin of Loreto with Litany of Loreto - Mary is depicted with angels. Excerpts from the Litany of Loreto fill in the background, including "Queen of Poland" in honor of Pope John Paul II.

Left Inner Door, beginning first row on left, top to bottom)

1. Goose
2. Southwest Indian Flying Serpent
3. Chumash Man
4. Peacock Barge
5. Griffin
6. Chinese Turtle
7. Ibis
8. Griffin
9. Fish
10. Hand of God
11. Eagle (St. John the Evangelist)
12. Dove
13. Bee
14. Celtic Serpents
15. Stag
16. Croatian Cross
17. Chumash Condor
18. Peacock
19. Falling Man
20. Tree of Jesse

(Right Inner Door, beginning first row, top to bottom)

21. Energy (soul)
22. Lion
23. Water
24. Lamb
25. Hand (listening symbol)
26. Chinese/Japanese Heaven Symbol
27. Pair of Ostriches
28. Rooster
29. Bull (St. Luke the Evangelist)
30. Trefoil (Celtic Trinity)
31. Dog
32. Sicilian Legs (regeneration symbol)
33. Bull
34. Serpent/Dragon
35. I Ching/Ti Chi
36. Samoan Kava Bowl
37. Foot
38. Celtic Monster
39. Raven Eating Man's Liver
40. Dolphin

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