The Crystal Cathedral was for decades a powerful symbol of a certain kind of church.
landmark church was built by the Rev. Robert H. Schuller, the famed
pastor who brought the drive-in church to Orange County during the
beginning of the postwar suburban boom and preached an upbeat, modern
vision of Christianity.
The Philip Johnson-designed
structure made of steel and 10,000 panes of glass became world famous
and was a forerunner to other so-called mega churches.
that a year after Schuller’s death, the Crystal Cathedral is undergoing a
major transformation in both design and ownership.
The makeover will transform the building into Christ Cathedral as the Catholic Church takes it over.
from the Diocese of Orange, the nation's 12th largest, gathered earlier
this week to preview the changes, which they plan to unveil for the
public at Sunday’s celebration of the diocese’s 40th anniversary, an
event expected to draw nearly 10,000 of the Catholic faithful.
diocese bought the famed building in 2011.
During the preview,
people can take a virtual tour and see a sanctuary splashed in white,
highlighting an altar, the bishop’s chair and baptismal font.
nearly 3,000 seats, the new space will allow for more people, with pews
arranged in a radial pattern and featuring a circular shaped Blessed
Sacrament Chapel, bearing a portrait of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
great cathedrals of Europe took generations to complete,” said Bishop
Kevin Vann, who promised the creation of “a beautiful and functional
Catholic interior design.”
“We do not have the time luxury of
former cathedral builders. Our goal is to dedicate Christ Cathedral by
2019,” added Vann, who started his job after the purchase of the church
and its 34-acre campus. A driving force behind the design, he has sought
ideas from priests, lay people and experts.
costs for the cathedral are about $72 million, according to the Rev.
Christopher Smith, rector and episcopal vicar of Christ Cathedral who is
leading the design project.
Four years ago, officials launched
the For Christ Forever campaign to help raise funds for refurbishing.
They collected about $39 million with an additional $21 million expected
to come in during the next two to five years, according to Cindy
Bobruk, who heads the Orange Catholic Foundation.
24,000 families among contributors who gave $25 to $20 million, with the
latter amount coming from an anonymous, non-Catholic donor. Priests
from the diocese with 57 parishes and more than 1.3 million registered
Catholics donated an average of $8,000 each, Bobruk said.
begin with your dreams,” said Smith. “Our goal was to fashion a
cathedral that is beautiful, maintains the architectural integrity of
the original Philip Johnson building and can serve the community’s
Scott Johnson of Johnson/Fain Associates, principal
architect, has crafted an interior layout intended to merge liturgical
requirements with “transcendent beauty.”
Virtual reality tours will be
available to the public at this weekend’s celebration.
building, lauded for its exterior shell of more than 12,000 panes of
glass, will stay, officials said, but it is experiencing major repair
and reconditioning. They hope the space will inspire contemplative and
“This is the commission of a lifetime. This is a
cathedral for the new millennium,” Johnson added. “We’re talking about a
building that could last forever.”
Many fans of Schuller’s vision, and followers of great religious architecture, will be following the transformation.
Crystal Cathedral is not an attempt to be an architectural ego
statement,” Schuller said in a 1997 interview with the American Academy
“It's probably the ultimate spiritual and psychological
statement that could be made in architectural terms.”