Several historic artistic elements have found a new home among an array of contemporary artworks and furnishings at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Stained glass windows and light fixtures that formerly adorned St. Vibiana's Cathedral have been installed in the mausoleum on the lower level. On the main floor, a 17th century Spanish Baroque retablo will be prominently displayed at the end of the south ambulatory.
Measuring about 26 feet wide and 20 feet high, the elaborately carved, polychromed and gilded altarpiece depicts a crucifix flanked by saints, with a Madonna and child overhead. Made in 1692 for a chapel in Ezcaray, a village in northern Spain, the retablo was sold to a New York art dealer in 1924 to raise funds for the then-impoverished village.
The dealer offered the retablo to the archdiocese of Los Angeles but eventually sold it to Pasadena art collector Raymond Gould. He donated it to the archdiocese in 1934. The retablo was housed at a seminary (now Bishop Alemany High School) in Mission Hills, until the archdiocese decided to move it to the new cathedral. It was added to the list of art works as a reminder of Catholic history.
In preparation for its debut in downtown Los Angeles, the massive altarpiece has been conserved by Griswold & Associates, with technical assistance, research services and $142,500 in financial support from the J. Paul Getty Trust. Brian Considine, the Getty Museum's conservator of decorative arts and sculpture, organized the project.
"What's remarkable about this retablo is its vitality," Considine says. "It has undergone very little restoration, so it retains a very fresh quality. We worked hard to honor that quality as we conserved it."