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CATHEDRAL BY THE FREEWAY; ARCHDIOCESE PLANS BEACON OF FAITH.

Byline: Deborah Sullivan Daily News Staff Writer

Beside the Hollywood Freeway, the beacon from the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels will be unmistakable: a six-story cross framed in luminous alabaster, beaming Christ's symbol to 42 million drivers a year.

``Whether you ever get off the freeway and go into it, we think the cathedral will draw people to God's presence,'' said Cardinal Roger Mahony, leader of the nation's largest Roman Catholic archdiocese and spiritual architect of the new cathedral.

Our Lady of the Angels, scheduled for dedication in 2001, will replace the earthquake-damaged St. Vibiana's Cathedral as the religious center for 4 million Catholics in the Los Angeles area.

Poised above the third-busiest freeway in California and designed to seat more worshippers than any cathedral in the country, Our Lady of the Angels will be a world-class religious monument befitting a city of Los Angeles' stature, church leaders say.

``I think it has a lot to do with the city's identity,'' said archdiocese spokesman the Rev. Gregory Coiro. ``I think the cathedral represents the loftier aspirations of the people of the city.''

Not everyone agrees. Critics view the $163 million edifice as an emblem of Los Angeles' renowned excess.

``Large, triumphal, monumental churches, while they give grand aesthetics, are inappropriate to the worship of a Christ that was born in a feeding trough and died on a cross,'' said Jeff Dietrich, a member of the Catholic Worker, a religious community devoted to feeding the poor that has protested the cathedral project.

They also question the appropriateness of its elite list of top-dollar donors, suspecting the cathedral is more of a public works project than a spiritual undertaking.

Among the top contributors are movie executive Roy Disney and his wife, Patty; department store heiress Betsy Bloomingdale; Universal Studios Chairman Emeritus Lew Wasserman; Mayor Richard Riordan; comedian Bob Hope; and DreamWorks co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg.

``It reads like a chamber of commerce for downtown development,'' Dietrich said.

Mahony said the archdiocese makes no secret that Our Lady of the Angels is joining an effort to revive downtown Los Angeles, as the cathedral will benefit Angelenos of all faiths.

``We think this will be a very exciting space for the community in general,'' Mahony said.

Moreover, he said, the archdiocese spends millions of dollars in community services and no donations were accepted if they come at the expense of other charitable giving.

Spiritual magnificence

Located on 5.6 acres at Grand and Temple avenues near the freeway, the cathedral will be surrounded by a landscaped plaza, meditation garden, children's hedgerow maze, pools and fountains.

Along the rectory on the site's east side will be a conference center, cafe, California history museum and services for the needy.

Towering over all will be the cathedral, with a ceiling soaring above 100 feet and massive, bronze doors opening 20 feet high and 30 feet wide.

It is planned to stand for 500 years, Mahony said, and it will hold more than 3,000 people at maximum capacity.

The cathedral's sheer size poses the architectural challenge of infusing warmth into immensity. Spanish architect Jose Rafael Moneo answered that with earthy materials and ethereal lighting.

Diffuse sunlight will stream through panes of Spanish alabaster, in mosaics of white, brown and tawny stone. Mahony said the slanted, recessed windows are designed to borrow from the original California missions, as do the adobe-colored concrete walls.

Panels of alabaster will also surround the 60-foot-high altar cross, backlighting the symbol at night.

``Inside, the effect of natural light and atmosphere, wood pews and ceilings, is to create a warm and friendly space,'' Mahony said.

Other features aim toward a hands-on liturgy. A baptismal font will be large enough to allow full immersion of adults, in addition to the simple sprinkling of holy water.

In a reversal of traditional church design, the entryway opens onto the altar side of the building.

``Most people when they come into a church would come into the back row, and then too many of them will sit in the back row,'' Mahony said. ``So we faked them out by bringing them in the front.''

Rows of pews will be placed on either side of the altar instead of just in front of it.

``Everybody is closer to the altar, as well as to each other, so it's a community rather than a sense of isolation,'' Mahony said.

On the northern wall, a mural will depict the history of the Catholic faith in Los Angeles, from the early missions to the dedication of Our Lady of the Angels.

The painting will end midway down the wall, leaving space for future church leaders to document the next 500 years.

Controversy abounds

Our Lady of the Angels came to life after the 1994 Northridge Earthquake struck a death blow to St. Vibiana's, on 2nd Street downtown.

Since then, it has been besieged by opposition.

A year after the quake, Mahony announced that the archdiocese would raze the unsafe St. Vibiana's and build a larger cathedral.

In June 1996, the church began dismantling the bell tower of St. Vibiana's but the Los Angeles Conservancy sued, arguing the building was not damaged beyond repair. Superior Court Judge Robert H. O'Brien ordered the archdiocese to conduct an environmental review and obtain demolition permits.

Coiro said the archdiocese is still completing the environmental impact report and has put the property up for sale.

Last December, the Shoshone Gabrieleno Nation and Spirit of the Sage Council sued the archdiocese, arguing that a skull and arm bone found during the 1950s proved the site housed Native American remains. O'Brien ruled in June the Archdiocese could start building.

The two groups appealed, but could not halt construction.

Weather permitting, Mahony said, dedication is expected to take place by Sept. 4, 2001, in time for the feast of Our Lady of the Angels.

A justifiable expense?

Critics complain that the cathedral's celestial dimensions reflect worldly extravagance not in keeping with the Christian mission.

At the October groundbreaking, protesters commandeered a skip loader before Mahony could scoop the first shovel of earth.

``If we had anything near the amount of money that was being spent on this cathedral - if anything near that was going to the poor - I would be standing with the cardinal today, helping with the groundbreaking,'' Dietrich said.

Megan Mayer, a member of St. Frances De Sales Catholic Church in Sherman Oaks, said found the protest ``disgraceful'' but struggles with the cathedral's cost.

``If there's that much expendable income out there we should probably be doing more for the poor of our city,'' said Mayer, 34.

Maria Hernandez, a parishioner at Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Church in Canoga Park, agreed: ``It's a lot of money. I think we lack many things here. And it seems to me the schools are lacking, too.''

Mahony noted the annual contributions of hundreds of other Catholic organizations, hospitals and individual churches total more than the cost of the cathedral, Mahony estimated.

``I would say that across the archdiocese it would amount to a minimum of $250 million a year,'' he said.

The archdiocese provided $7.5 million to the neediest Catholic schools and churches. And its Education Foundation gives $4 million to $5 million in tuitions for lower-income students.

Catholic Charities, an organization affiliated with the church, provides close to $20 million annually in food, counseling, homeless aid, immigration assistance, and services to youth and the elderly.

``We will not take a gift from anybody if by giving to the cathedral they would stop giving to other causes,'' Mahony said.

Claudia Peters, director of corporate communications for The Walt Disney Co., which contributed to the cathedral's public plaza, said the company also donates to Catholic Charities and other community organizations.

``We're very supportive of projects that serve the needs of our community,'' Peters said. ``And churches often focus on these kinds of programs.''

Some clergy and parishioners said the cathedral will aid other causes.

``I think that by having a church like that there over the years, more money will be spent on the poor,'' said the Rev. Robert McNamara of St. John Eudes in Chatsworth.

Added Barbara Welsh, 50, a member of St. Francis De Sales: ``I'm thrilled that they're doing it,'' said ``I think the thing is, build it and they will come.''

CATHEDRAL DONORS

These are among the major benefactors identified by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Founding Donors:

Dan Murphy Foundation - $25 million

The Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Foundation - $10 million

Lead Donors - $1 million or more

Mr. and Mrs. Albert Centofante

Larry and Ralph Cimmarusti families

The William M. Close family

Mr. and Mrs. Roy E. Disney

Carrie Estelle Doheny Foundation

June and Paul Ebensteiner

The William R. and Virginia Hayden Foundation

Conrad N. Hilton Foundation

Dolores and Bob Hope and family

Suzanne Mayer

Mr. and Mrs. Cyril C. Nigg

Mr. and Mrs. C. Peter Nigg

Mayor Richard J. Riordan

Frank and Maxine Smith Family Trust

Mr. and Mrs. L. Owne Traynor

Mr. and Mrs. Wilfred L. Von der Ahe

Major Donors - $100,000 to $1 million:

Mario E. Antonini

The Anschutz Foundation

Joseph P. Brown and Lydia T. Brown

Mr. and Mrs. Timothy Busch

Mr. and Mrs. R.T. Campion

Nadine and Alex Chaves and family

Mr. and Mrs. Walter J. Conn

Walt Disney Co.

The Bernard C. Dohn family

Edison International

Mr. and Mrs. William Ferry

Monsignor Terrance Fleming

In memory of Ann M. and Thomas H. Fleming, by their family

Mr. and Mrs. Philip M. Hawley

Mr. and Mrs. Stanley D. Hayden

The J. Michael Hennigan family

Mr. and Mrs. George D. Jagels

The Marilyn and Jeffrey Katzenberg Foundation

Fiorenza Courtright Lucas

Cardinal Roger M. Mahony

Mr. and Mrs. Leonis C. Malburg

Ed and Zee Marzec

Mr. and Mrs. William S. Mortensen

Muller Family Foundation

Mr. Peter Mullin

The O'Connell family

Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth O. Olsen Jr.

Laura and Bill Siart

Times-Mirror Foundation

Von der Ahe Foundation

Kim McLane Wardlaw and William M. Wardlaw

Mr. and Mrs. Michael Wayne

Mr. and Mrs. Frank J. Weber

Willison Family Foundation

Special Donors - $10,000 to $100,000:

Margaret Kaiser Auth

Mr. and Mrs. Robert C. Baker

Mr. and Mrs. Jose A. Debasa

E. and J. DiLoreto Family Trust

Mr. and Mrs. Richard C. Dunn

Mrs. Stephen D. Gavin

Home Savings of America

Mr. and Mrs. Richard A. Hotaling, in memory of Henry O'Melveny Duque

Chief Justice Malcolm Lucas, retired

Allen Lund Co.

Mr. and Mrs. James G. MacFarlane

Molly Munger and Steve English

Mr. and Mrs. Robert Pernecky

Honorable Mariana R. Pfaelzer

Mr. and Mrs. Phillip M. & Eloise Ramos Jr.- Philatron International

Mr. and Mrs. Thomas P. Romano

Frederick J. Ruopp

The Kenneth N. Russak Family

Mr. and Mrs. William E. Simon Jr.

Charles and Carol Smith

Mr. and Mrs. Smulders-Grasso

CAPTION(S):

3 Photos, Box

PHOTO (1 -- Color) Cardinal Roger Mahony admires a model of Our Lady of the Angels, being built downtown.

(2) Los Angeles Archbishop Roger Mahony uses a model to show how Our Lady of the Angels cathedral will look from the Hollywood Freeway.

(3) The construction site for the city's new cathedral, Our Lady of the Angels, overlooks the Hollywood Freeway in downtown Los Angeles.

Michael Owen Baker/Daily News

BOX: Cathedral Donors (see text)
COPYRIGHT 1998 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

 
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 16, 1998
Words:1880
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