Cathedral of
Our Lady of the Angels
Cathedral of our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles
34°3′30″N 118°14′45″W / 34.05833°N 118.24583°W / 34.05833; -118.24583
Location555 W. Temple St.
Los Angeles, California
CountryUnited States
DenominationRoman Catholic
DedicationSeptember 2, 2002
Architect(s)Rafael Moneo
StyleModern architecture; deconstructivist elements
Construction cost$189.7 million
Capacity3,000 people
Length333 feet (101 m) ; nave
ArchdioceseLos Angeles
ArchbishopJosé Horacio Gómez
AssistantFr. Michael Mesa
Pastor(s)Msgr. Antonio Cacciapuoti

The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels (Spanish: Catedral de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles), informally known as the COLA or the Los Angeles Cathedral (Spanish: Catedral de Los Ángeles), is the metropolitan cathedral of the Roman Catholic Church in Los Angeles, California, United States. It opened in 2002 and serves as the mother church for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles,[1] as well as the seat of Archbishop José Horacio Gómez.[2]

The structure replaced the Cathedral of Saint Vibiana, which was severely damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Under Roger Cardinal Mahony, Archbishop of Los Angeles, Our Lady of the Angels was begun in 1998 and formally dedicated on September 2, 2002. There was considerable controversy over both its deconstructivist and modern design, costs incurred in its construction and furnishing, and the archdiocese's decision to build a crypt under the cathedral.[3]

The cathedral is named in honor of the Virgin Mary under the patronal title of "Our Lady of the Angels", echoing the full name of the original settlement of Los Angeles (Spanish: El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles, or "The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels").[4] The cathedral is widely known for enshrining the relics of Saint Vibiana and tilma piece of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It is the mother church to approximately five million professed Catholics in the archdiocese.[5]


The cathedral houses an original relic piece taken from the Tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe

The Cathedral of Saint Vibiana had served as the cathedral of the Los Angeles see since its completion in 1876. Soon after its completion, the diocese noted it to be of inferior construction quality and also too small for Los Angeles' rapidly growing population. In 1904, Bishop Thomas James Conaty gained permission from the Holy See to build a new cathedral to be named after Our Lady of the Angels. However, an economic downturn in 1907 put a stop to the project; a Catholic parish church was later built on the site. In the 1940s, plans were drawn up for a new cathedral on Wilshire Boulevard that would seat 3,000 people, and in 1945 Archbishop John Joseph Cantwell announced that the Holy See approved the name "Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels". That cathedral was never built, however, as Cantwell died in 1947 and his successor, James Francis McIntyre, decided instead that building new parish churches and schools in the expanding metropolis was a more pressing need for the archdiocese. McIntyre gained permission from donors to redirect money donated for the Cantwell cathedral fund to those needs.

The 1994 Northridge earthquake severely damaged the Cathedral of Saint Vibiana, which led the archdiocese to close the cathedral due to safety concerns. In January 1995 the archdiocese announced plans to build a new cathedral on the Saint Vibiana site, plans which necessitated the demolition of the old cathedral. This led to a lengthy legal battle between the archdiocese and preservationists, who argued that the cathedral was a city landmark and that it should be either incorporated into the new cathedral or otherwise saved. The archdiocese contended that restoring the old cathedral to carry out its functions safely would cost $18–20 million, and had not received any pledges or donations for this purpose.[6]

This legal battle prompted the archdiocese to look to build the cathedral on a new site. In December 1996, the archdiocese announced it was purchasing a 5.6-acre (2.3 ha) site between Temple Street and the Hollywood Freeway from Los Angeles County at a cost of $10.85 million.[6] The archdiocese chose to retain the "Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels" name approved by the Vatican in the 1940s. The initially proposed budget for the project was $150 million, rising to a final cost of $189.7 million. The construction was supervised by Father Richard S. Vosko, a liturgical design consultant and priest of the Diocese of Albany who has overseen the design and renovation of numerous churches and cathedrals in the United States.[7] Construction began in 1998 and was completed in September 2002.


View of seating in the nave

The architect was Pritzker Prize-winning Spaniard Rafael Moneo.[1][8] Using elements of postmodern architecture, the church and the Cathedral Center feature a series of acute and obtuse angles while avoiding right angles. Contemporary statuary and appointments decorate the complex. Prominent of these appointments are the bronze doors and the statue called The Virgin Mary, all adorning the entrance and designed by Robert Graham. Other features include three fountains and a bronze sculpture by Johnny Bear Contreras dedicated as a Native American memorial. The building is equipped with solar panels for generating 15% of its electricity.

In addition to the church, the cathedral grounds also include a mausoleum, gift shop, cafe, children's garden, conference center, and clergy residences. The relics of Saint Vibiana are interred in the mausoleum, as are the remains of several past bishops, archbishops, and auxiliary bishops of Los Angeles. The size of the cathedral is 6,038 square metres (64,990 sq ft).


The cathedral's postmodern design as seen from the corner of Grand Ave and Temple Street

Roger Cardinal Mahony's decision to build a new cathedral utilizing contemporary architecture drew criticisms from those who preferred the gothic revival stylings typical of preceding centuries. In actuality, the cathedral's architectural design was selected from a pool of 38 submissions from international architectural firms as far away as Japan, Germany, Spain and England, by a blue-ribbon jury of experts from the J. Paul Getty Trust, California Institute of the Arts, UCLA, USC, Harvard and the American Academy in Rome.[9]

Others argued that a church of that size and expense was unnecessary, overly-elaborate and that the money could have been better spent on social programs, suggesting that either St. Vincent Church on West Adams Boulevard or St. Basil Church on Wilshire Boulevard, despite their smaller size, could perform the functions required of a cathedral with minimal additional cost.[10]

Cardinal Mahoney reiterated his pledge for no parish-based appeal to finance the cathedral construction, and urged major donors to the cathedral not to cut back on their current or future charitable giving in order to continue outreach efforts to the poor at the same time.[11] To keep the record straight, a resume of the total construction costs was released to the press. Avoiding any fundraising from local parishes and devoting 24 hours per week in contacting actual and potential donors, the cardinal described his cathedral project in some of his letters as follows: "Historically, cathedrals have defined their eras, creating a legacy of enduring and innovative architectural designs. They have served as a focal point for artistic and religious expression through their acquisition from local artisans of the adornments that distinguish and enhance the structure, and through the central role they have played in preserving and expanding the spiritual and liturgical teachings that define the Catholic faith. . . . This project will serve a vital role in our society - contributing to the architectural, religious and cultural persona of downtown Los Angeles".[12]

In response to protests staged during the construction of the cathedral, the cardinal's editorial for the Los Angeles Times, dated October 19, 1998, stated: "The Catholic Worker and others shortchange the poor when they adopt the stance that the Church should be attentive only to the material concerns of the needy. This is out of step with Church history and with the teaching of Jesus, who said that people do not live by bread alone. There are various kinds of poverty, of which material poverty is but one."[13] Entities within the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, such as Catholic Charities, Together in Mission, and the Catholic Education Foundation, are responsible for funneling funds that help to feed, clothe, house, educate and provide healthcare for the poor.[14] [15]


The organ is Opus 75 of Dobson Pipe Organ Builders of Lake City, Iowa, and is a 105 rank four-manual instrument that incorporates pipes from the 1929 Wangerin organ of St. Vibiana's Cathedral. The St. Vibiana instrument had been rebuilt in 1988 by Austin Organs.[16] The Dobson instrument has a total of 6,019 pipes and was dedicated in 2003. It is the 89th largest pipe organ in North America and the 143rd largest in the world.[17] The organ case is approximately 60 feet (18 m) high, and is located approximately 24 feet (7.3 m) above the floor. To meet earthquake-stability requirements, the pipes and case are supported by a massive internal steel frame.[16]


LA Cathedral Mausoleum
The final resting place of actor Gregory Peck in the cathedral's Crypt Mausoleum

The cathedral features a mausoleum in its lower level, containing 1,270 crypts and 4,746 columbarium niches for burials. Proceeds from the sale of memorials and burial spaces are placed in an endowment fund to support the cathedral.[18]

All past ordinaries of the archdiocese are memorialized in the mausoleum, including a future burial site for Cardinal Roger Mahony, and the remains of several ordinaries and auxiliary bishops who died before the cathedral was built were transferred there.[19] The tomb of Saint Vibiana was transferred to the cathedral from its previous location above the altar at the Cathedral of Saint Vibiana; the tomb is the centerpiece of the St. Vibiana Chapel located adjacent to the mausoleum.

The crypt mausoleum features a number of stained glass windows that were originally installed in Saint Vibiana's Cathedral. This idea was suggested by Mario Agustin Locsin, a renowned Liturgical Artist and consultant on the renovation. The old cathedral windows were restored and two new windows featuring guardian angels created by the Judson Studios were placed at the entrance to the crypt mausoleum.[20]

List of notable persons interred at the cathedral




2012 Grand Marian Procession through Downtown Los Angeles

On September 3, 2011, the cathedral played host to a Votive Mass in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Mass marked the conclusion of the First Annual Grand Marian Procession organised by the Queen of Angels Foundation.

The cathedral is a popular Catholic wedding venue on a year-round basis.

The cathedral hosts occasional musical performances, including concerts by Libera.[22]

On the first Wednesday of every month, the cathedral holds an organ recital at 1:00 in the afternoon. It is free and open to the public.[23]

Pastor History

See also


  1. ^ a b "About: History". Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Archived from the original on July 9, 2011. Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  2. ^ "Archbishop José Horacio Gómez Velasco". David M. Cheney. Retrieved 21 January 2015.
  3. ^ "Why Are There So Many Ugly Churches? - an interview with Morya Doorly". Ignatius Insight. August 13, 2007. Archived from the original on February 2, 2013. Retrieved January 26, 2013.
  4. ^ The Franciscan friars who founded the pueblo town named it for Santa Maria degli Angeli (Italian for "St. Mary of the Angels"), the locality within Assisi where St. Francis began his movement on a "little portion of land" called the Porziuncola.
  5. ^ "Welcome". Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Archived from the original on December 22, 2007. Retrieved January 16, 2008.
  6. ^ a b "About: History". Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Archived from the original on June 4, 2011. Retrieved March 16, 2011.
  7. ^ Richard S. Vosko: Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels Archived 2011-12-13 at the Wayback Machine retrieved May 23, 2011
  8. ^ "About: Architect". Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Archived from the original on July 9, 2011. Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  9. ^ Weber, Francis J.; Paul, Pope John I. I. (2004). Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angelsby Msgr. Francis Weber, p.146 (2004). St. Francis Historical Society. ISBN 0-9678477-6-1. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved August 22, 2007..
  10. ^ "$2.5 Million Given for Fountain at New Cathedral". Los Angeles Times. November 15, 2001. Archived from the original on November 7, 2012. Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  11. ^ Weber, p.102.
  12. ^ Weber, p.107-108.
  13. ^ Weber, p.176-177
  14. ^ Weber, p.97-98
  15. ^ "Habitat for Humanity and Catholic Relief Services to support households affected by Beirut blast". UNOCHA. November 19, 2020.
  16. ^ a b "Cathedral of Our Lady of Angles". Archived from the original on September 28, 2011. Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  17. ^ "About the Organ". Archived from the original on September 10, 2014. Retrieved September 9, 2014.
  18. ^ "Mausoleum: About". Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Archived from the original on March 27, 2012. Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  19. ^ Larry B. Stammer (16 March 2001). "The Lady Appears". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 7 November 2012. Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  20. ^ "Mausoleum: Stained Glass Windows". Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Archived from the original on September 26, 2011. Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  21. ^ "Della Koenig Obituary". Retrieved 16 August 2023.
  22. ^ Nearer My God to Thee (concert, 03-08-2018); Libera Official, 2018 (YouTube).
  23. ^ "Organ Recital at the Cathedral". Archived from the original on February 3, 2015. Retrieved September 9, 2014.
  24. ^ "Two LA priests get warm sendoffs as Cathedral changes pastors". 6 July 2022.

Further reading