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Los Angeles: Cathedral of the Angels

History of the Cathedral of the Angels:

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles serves over 5 million Catholics, with over 200 Parish Churches and communities.

The  previous Cathedral, St. Vibiana’s Cathedral, had sustanied much damage by earthquakes over the years, but the Northridge earthquake of 1994 proved to be the final straw.  It was closed in 1995 and then condemned by the city in 1996.  Plans were made to tear it down and build on a new Cathedral on the site.  However, historical preservationists intervened and demanded that the old Cathedral be saved and incorporated into the new one. Such a proposal was impossible to consider because the old Cathedral lacked a foundation, reinforced walls and essential seismic safeguards. Legal challenges ensued, including court injunctions delaying the demolition.

The Archdiocese’s engineers and contractors estimated that it would cost a minimum of 18 to 20 millon dollars  to save the old structure. No one, including the preservationists, would donate the kind of money needed to save the old Cathedral building.

On July 22, 1996 it was announced that a new site would be sought for the new Cathedral. On September 14, 1996 the Cathedral Advisory Board met with Design Architect, Professor José Rafael Moneo, to consider eight possible sites — six of them in downtown Los Angeles. The Board members walked the sites, and decided upon the 5.6 acre site bounded by Temple Street, Grand Avenue, Hill Street, and the Hollywood Freeway.

At that time the property was used as a parking lot and was owned by the County of Los Angeles, which agreed to sell the site to the Archdiocese. The sale was completed and formally announced on December 23, 1996. The sale price was $10.85 million.

The Cathedral here is where the Archbishop celebrates the major Liturgies of the year with clergy, religious and laity.  Sunday Mass is celebrated in 42 different languages.

About the Cathedral of the Angels:

The Cathedral is ultra-modern, which some will like and others will hate.  But even if you are not a fan of the modern look, the Cathedral contains many interesting relics and works of art that are worth visiting.

Relics and artwork in the Cathedral:

Along the South Ambulatory is the chapel in honor of Our Lady of the Angels. The beautiful statue of Mary by Italian artist Professor Eugenio Pattarino was commissioned by Cardinal James Francis McIntyre in the 1950s. The chapel gives honor to traditional conceptions of Mary, the Mother of God.

The Reconciliation Chapel along the North Ambulatory is for private meditation and community celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Unlike traditional Catholic churches with confessionals on the sides of the nave, this chapel is separate, offering a quiet place for contemplation and prayer. It has private rooms for confession, with either screen-separated or face-to-face alternatives. They are spaciously designed to allow wheelchair access.

There is a shrine to Our Lady of Gudalupe with a beautiful mosaic portrait of Our Lady of Guadalupe. There also relics of Saint Saint Pope John Paul II:  both a first-class relic as well as second-class relics of this modern-day saint.


In addition, there is a relic of a 20th century martyr:  Saint Jose Sanchez del Rio, a martyr of the “Cristero War” of the early 20th century.  There is a first-class relic of his clavicle enclosed in a small glass case. Next to it is a bronze statue of the young martyred saint with the words, “Never, like today, has it been as easy to get into Heaven” (rough translation) in Spanish. On the walls you’ll see a picture of him as a young boy, making his first communion, the last known photograph of him, as well as a copy of the letter he wrote to his mother when he was imprisoned during the Cristero War. You can read more about his story here on our website.


Tomb of Saint Vibiana in Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral, Los Angeles
Photo: Andreas Praefcke / Public domain

Be sure to go down to the Mausoleum floor to visit Saint Vibiana’s Chapel and Shrine, including her tomb. Vibiana is a third-century virgin martyr of the Roman Catholic Church.  Not much is known about her, other than the fact that she was a martyr.  For that reason many people feel that she is “the patron saint of nobodies”, those of us who will be never well-known, but whose acts are known to God alone.

The name of St. Vibiana was given to St. Vibiana’s Cathedral by Pope Pius IX  in honor of the virgin and martyr, whose remains had been buried in the Roman catacombs and were preserved in the original Cathedral. She is the patron saint of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Her liturgical feast day is September 1.

Finding the Cathedral of the Angels in Los Angeles:

The Cathedral is located in the heart of this sprawling city and easy to find.

Address:  555 West Temple Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012-2707

Tel:  +1 (213) 680-5200

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