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The Lady Appears

March 16, 2001|LARRY B. STAMMER

A year and a half away from completion, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels soars heavenward on its downtown site at Temple Street and Grand Avenue.

Billed by Cardinal Roger M. Mahony as "a church worthy of our times," the mother church of the nation's largest Roman Catholic archdiocese is scheduled to be dedicated in the early fall of 2002. A 47,000-square-foot roof on the 11-story edifice was completed this week.

Built to last at least 300 years, the 63,000-square-foot cathedral was designed by Spanish architect Jose Rafael Moneo. Its construction is being supervised by Leo A Daly, the executive architect.

The cathedral will seat 3,000 worshipers in a nave that will be at least a foot longer than St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York. It will be illuminated by clerestory windows of thinly veined translucent alabaster from Spain. The interior walls of the nave will be accented with tapestries depicting the "community of saints."

The cathedral's great bronze doors, designed by artist Robert Graham, will stand three stories high, including a crowning tympanum with a sculpture of Mary. Each door will weigh five tons and will be opened with a motorized hydraulic system. Smaller doors will be cut into the larger doors for everyday use. The doors are the portal to a long ambulatory or interior walkway that leads past chapels toward the cathedral proper. The intent, church leaders say, is to convey a sense of journey or pilgrimage.

Beneath the main cathedral floor in the undercroft, 1,270 crypts and 4,746 niches are being prepared for future burials. Plans call for all past bishops of the archdiocese, who are now buried at various Catholic cemeteries, to be solemnly reinterred at the cathedral.

The $163-million cost of the project includes a 55,000-square-foot cathedral conference center and cathedral residence, which Mahony and his staff moved into this week. The cathedral alone will cost $69.6 million.

A 2 1/2-acre plaza features waterfalls and a fountain inscribed with Jesus' promise of "living water" to those who thirst for God. A three-level parking garage lies below the plaza.

The new edifice will replace the shuttered Cathedral of St. Vibiana, a 121-year-old Spanish Baroque-style structure at 2nd and Main streets, which has been sold.

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