Friday, July 1, 2011

Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles

Photographs by versluis, 2011

The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles is a sublime building designed in a postmodern architectural idiom that reflects the significance of harmonious colors, light, rhythms, space, and time, which seems to “appreciate the creative spirit indigenous to the local community.” Additionally, the program of the Cathedral is unified and has many of the traditional features that connect it to the great Roman Catholic Cathedrals of the past. When entering the church one is literally guided in procession to the place where the central liturgical elements commemorate with the Eucharist (The Thanksgiving).

In 1996 the Spanish architect, Professor José Rafael Moneo, was commissioned to design the Cathedral. Construction began on May 1999 and by spring of 2002 it was completed — in all the complex essentially resides within a city block.

The architect uses natural light to reveal the materials of the exterior and interior architectural spaces and the materiality of eating the Eucharistic elements. As the Cathedral’s website explains:
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.

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 very striking and intricate tapestries created by artist John Nava for the Cathedral are meant to convey the Communion of Saints along the south and north walls of the nave. The Cathedral’s website iterates:
Twenty-five fresco-like tapestries depict 135 saints and blesseds from around the world, including holy men and women of North America canonized by the Church. Twelve untitled figures, including children of all ages, represent the many anonymous holy people in our midst. All the figures direct our eyes to the light of the great Cross-window above the Altar where the Eucharist is celebrated.

Nava combined digital imaging and ‘Old Master’ methods in creating the saints for the tapestries. He constructed figures from multiple studies, combined drawn and painted elements, had costumes made when needed and even drafted family members to serve as models on occasion. He wanted the figures to look like people we know now, and did not use a highly stylized form to depict the saints. Nava’s desire is that people identify and see that ‘a saint could look like me.’
The plaza fountain (a detail pictured above) senses the biblical story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. The Hebraic inscription in the stone has all the characteristics of fine Hebraic script typography.

1 comment:

  1. I've often been to St. Patrick's Cathedral at 51st and 5th Ave in Manhattan, and every time I've been there--no matter the time of day--hundreds of tourists, Catholic faithful and just plain sight-seers are milling around inside taking in the gorgeous old stained glass and statues of the Saints--beautiful Catholic art and design put together in the late 1800's. I've also been to Our Lady of Angels Cathedral, which draws 1/20th of the crowd St. Patrick's does. People are voting with their feet which Cathedral is the more beautiful.


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