Re: Re: reorganisation and destruction of irish catholic churches

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The Taj Mahony. ..Also known as The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles. A tale of waste, Ego’s, & missed opportunities…

The former Cathedral of Saint Vibiana, often called St. Vibiana’s, was the mother church cathedral parish of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles under the pastoral care of the Archbishop of Los Angeles.
Plans for a cathedral dated back to 1859; and land for the facility was donated by Amiel Cavalier. The complex, on the Southeast corner of Main and Second Street, in downtown Los Angeles was dedicated in 1876, and cost $80,000 USD. The Cathedral’s architect, Ezra F. Kysor, also designed the landmark Pico House. The Baroque-inspired Italianate structure was a landmark in the early days of Los Angeles; when it opened it could hold one-tenth of the young town’s population. The interior was remodeled around 1895, using onyx and marble; the exterior facade was changed in 1922-24 to give it its present look, said to be based on a Roman design.

The facility was outgrown by the region’s rapidly expanding population, and the Archdiocese decided that it needed a larger main facility; however, preservationists pressured them to not destroy the historic landmark. The situation was complicated further when the 1994 Northridge Earthquake caused extensive damage to the cathedral and its 1,200-seat sanctuary. Deciding that the damage was not worth repairing in such a small structure, the Archdiocese began demolition on the site in 1996, without permits. However, the sudden dismantling of the bell tower on a Saturday morning prompted a frantic save-the-cathedral campaign, and work by the Archdiocese was halted by preservationists who had a temporary restraining order placed on demolition. The Archdiocese argued that it had the right to level its own facility; preservationists and the city wanted the church to be preserved. The structure was listed on the country’s “11 Most Endangered Places” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. A state Court of Appeal rejected the archdiocese’s argument to be allowed to quickly demolish the cathedral; then City Councilwoman Rita Walters had moved to strip the cathedral of its historic monument status, an action that would exempt the archdiocese from having to prepare the full environmental impact study normally required for destruction of a city landmark.

Finally a compromise was reached: the City of Los Angeles agreed to swap land with the Archdiocese, giving the Church a much larger plot next to the 101 Freeway. The Archdiocese agreed and the land was developed into the new Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, constructed and consecrated as the new mother church cathedral parish of the Archdiocese. Some items from St. Vibiana’s Cathedral were used in the new Cathedral. The stained glass and sarcophagus were placed in the new Cathedral’s crypt mausoleum. Pipes from the 1980 Austin pipe organ have been incorporated into the organ at the new Cathedral. An Oratorio about Saint Vibiana was written by Peter Boyd and performed in Pacoima in 1997.

The new Cathedral site was taken over by the city. The city sold the former cathedral building to downtown developer Tom Gilmore in 1999 for $4.6 million.

The cathedral was designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning Spanish architect Rafael Moneo. Using elements of postmodern architecture, the church and the Cathedral Center feature a series of acute and obtuse angles. There is an absence of right angles. Contemporary statuaries 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.

Like the later Oakland Cathedral of Christ the Light, which replaced the earthquake-damaged Saint Francis de Sales Cathedral, Our Lady of the Angels is a base isolated structure for protection against earthquake structural damage.

The site of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels is 5.6 acres (23,000 m²) bound by Temple Street, Grand Avenue, Hill Street and the Hollywood Freeway.

The 12-story high building can accommodate over 3,000 worshippers. The site includes the cathedral proper, a 2.5 acre (10,000 m²) plaza, several gardens and water features, the Cathedral Center (with the gift shop, the Galero Grill, conference center, and cathedral parish offices), and the cathedral rectory, the archepiscopal residence and some cathedral clergy. The entire complex is 58,000 square feet (5,000 m²). The main sanctuary is 333 feet (100 m) long (purposely one foot longer than St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York). The internal height varies from 80′ over the baptistery at the rear (west) end to about 100′ near the lantern window (east end).

Among the artworks commissioned for the cathedral are the tapestries of the communion of saints by painter John Nava, and the plaza fountain by Lita Albuquerque and Robert Kramer. The cathedral is noted for having the largest use of alabaster in the country.[citation needed] They replaced the more traditional stained glass windows, providing the interior with soft, warm, subtly multi-hued illumination. The organ, built by Dobson Pipe Organ Builders of Lake City, Iowa, has 105 ranks of pipes, some of which were retained from the 1980 Austin organ from St. Vibiana’s Cathedral. The case of the organ is approximately 60 feet (18 m) high, and is placed about 24 feet (7.3 m) above the floor. The top of the organ’s case is about 85 feet (26 m) above the cathedral’s floor.

Estimates for the restoration of the earthquake damaged Cathedral of Saint Vibiana ranged around $180 million. The structure was eventually restored by developers Tom Gilmore and Richard Weintraub, who spent only around $6 million.
Because the old cathedral was known to be of rather inferior construction (something noted soon after its completion in 1876) and had been far too small for diocesan celebrations for decades, the archdiocese chose to build a new cathedral (ultimately on a new site). The decision to change venues was influenced in part by conservationists, who argued that the outmoded cathedral ought to be restored and preserved as a historic landmark, and the needs of the new cathedral itself — it was to have a capacity of approximately 3,000 worshipers, the same number as a cathedral design from the 1940s that was never built, yet provided the Holy See-approved name for the new cathedral. Initially, the proposed budget was $150 million, but as the charities and donations kept coming, the architects and builders were able to implement everything desired. Thus, the final cost of the new cathedral was $189.7 million.

Cardinal Mahony’s decision to rebuild the Los Angeles cathedral in such elaborate and post-modern architecture drew criticism from a number of critics both within and outside the Catholic Church, who argued that a church of that size and expense was unnecessary and overly-elaborate. Many felt that either St. Vincent Church on West Adams Boulevard or St. Basil Church on South Kingsley Drive could easily perform the functions required of a cathedral with minimal additional cost. Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral was also criticized for its departure from traditional California Mission-style architecture and aesthetics.

The price for some cathedral furnishings have also caused great consternation. $5M was budgeted for the altar or “table” — essentially a giant slab of Rosso Laguna marble. The main bronze doors cost $3M. $2M was budgeted for the wooden ambo (lectern), and $1M for a very controversial tabernacle.

$1M for the cathedral (bishop’s chair). $250K for the presider’s chair. $250K for each deacon’s chair. Visiting bishops’ chairs cost $150K each, while pews cost an average of $50K each. The cantor’s stand cost $100K while each bronze chandelier/speaker cost $150K.[6] The great costs incurred in its construction and Mahony’s long efforts to get it built led critics to dub it the “Taj Mahony”.

See also

And what became of the old Saint Vibiana building you ask?

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