New Designs for Christ Cathedral


Some two years ago, the initial designs for the transition of the former Chrystal Cathedral, the grandaddy of the modern megachurch, into the new Christ Cathedral, the new mother church for Orange, were released. Since that time, a process of revision has happened, largely due to financial constraints.

This month, on September 14, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the Diocese of Orange in California unveiled the updated designs for the transformed church. It is shown below.


Below is what the original design looked liked.


Note the use of radial seating in the new designs versus the antiphonal arrangement of the previous designs. This allows for more seating capacity. Also, note the sanctuary has been arranged into a more “standard” form, versus the axial design in the earlier designs. This necessitated the rearrangement of the altar table, ambo, cathedra, and the baldochin.

Perhaps interesting to the readers is the use of technology to provide tours of the cathedral from within the space itself. As the LA Times reports, within the empty shell of the building, there were VR headsets provided to show the guests the renderings of the completed space in 3D and with a 360 degree view.

Below is a video of the new designs.

The cathedral is expected to be dedicated by 2019.

h/t to PTB reader Karl Liam Saur for sending the links about cost constraints and finding the brochure with the new designs.








14 responses to “New Designs for Christ Cathedral”

  1. Carlo Argoti Avatar
    Carlo Argoti

    Apparently it’s going to take six months to install the newly refurbished Hazel Wright organ which is partly the reason for the delay.

  2. Chase M. Becker Avatar

    I’m very disappointed by this new design. The choir seating seemed so natural in the existing structure. The new seating arrangement just feels forced to me. The perhaps unintended consequence of this change is that the liturgical furnishings have lost their prominence by being all squashed together on to what appears to be a rather small platform. In the original design, the ambo was truly monumental and the space given to each of the furnishings gave the entire space a certain gravitas that is lost now.

    I also see that the designs of the auxiliary spaces, especially the baptistry and reservation chapel have changed fairly drastically also. Everything just seems much less elegant now.

    I understand the issues of cost and capacity, but one only gets the chance to do a project like this once, and I’m afraid that the Christ Cathedral has become a missed opportunity.

    1. Todd Flowerday Avatar

      @Chase M. Becker:
      Agreed on all your points, Chase. It’s also fine for the computer-generated images and video to focus downward. But the most remarkable thing about this cathedral will not be its gravitas, but the whimsy of glass above and around.

    2. Brian Palmer Avatar
      Brian Palmer

      @Chase M. Becker:

      I hope bishop Vann will give this revised plan for the his cathedral further thought. The latest plan is a terrible disapointment, shocking actually.

  3. Paul Inwood Avatar
    Paul Inwood

    One problem with the design from the beginning has been the large baldacchino. Why it is thought necessary to have one at all is beyond me, especially in a building where the height of glass is one of its major characteristics, and where a baldacchino will intrude on the sight-lines of those up in the side balconies.

    If the whole assembly is the primary celebrant of the liturgy, why designate a special space as if it were somehow more sacred? This puts the sanctuary plinth into first place, and the rest of the celebrating body as second-class citizens. Baldacchinos were traditional in the preconciliar Church because at that time it was thought that only the clergy celebrated, everyone else being passive spectators. Now that we have a different liturgical theology, there seems to be no justifiication for continuing the practice, whether in Christ Cathedral or anywhere else.

    Omitting a baldacchino, or removing one from an existing building, opens up the space, and gives an improved feeling of spaciousness, of open-ness. You only have to look at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, where there is no baldacchino in the sanctuary, to see the point. Or the church of the Sacred Heart in Wimbledon, which formerly had a large dark brown and gilt wooden ciborium on legs brooding over the high altar.

    Inserting a baldacchino into a space such as Christ Cathedral will give a sensation of oppressiveness, of pressing-down upon the height of the worship space, as well as being a major cuckoo in the nest, completely out of character with the design of the rest of the building.. I expect one of the arguments for having it will be that it will incorporate lighting for the sanctuary area, but in its previous incarnation the cathedral was quite adequately lit with fixtures attached to the girders supporting the glass roof, and this can be done again without difficulty.

    If it is felt that a baldacchino is necessary, why not have a completely transparent perspex one? But the preferable option would be to dispense with this element of the design altogether.

    I would go further and say that, as well as the baldacchino being unnecessary, we also don’t need a large and obtrusive cross hanging in the sanctuary area. There doesn’t seem to have been a cross hanging from the baldacchino in the original design, but there certainly is now. It will be intrusive and block sight-lines.

    A processional cross of sufficient gravitas, and designed to tone in with the building, is all that is needed. And yes, it’s possible to design one which is large enough to fit the building and be impressive and yet is easily portable. Other churches and cathedrals around the world have this arrangement: the processional cross is “planted” somewhere in (perhaps in one corner of) the sanctuary and stays there; it is the primary symbol of the cross in the building. When it is required for a procession, it is simply taken some time beforehand to wherever the departure point of the procession will be. Simplicity, which avoids the duplication of symbols in the building.

  4. Jim McKay Avatar
    Jim McKay

    The original design has a cross hanging from the baldacchino. The image above is looks at it from the side, so it looks like a tree over the entrance opposite. I believe it is the same as that used in the new one.

    Some renderings make the baldacchino and cross look insignificant alongside the sweeping crystal ceiling. Almost as if they are fighting against the sunlight pouring through.

    1. Paul Inwood Avatar
      Paul Inwood

      @Jim McKay:

      That is one huge balcacchino in the image you showed. And the cross is not small either. (Just get rid of them!) The view you need is front on, which will show you just large and obtrusive they would be.

      Amwering KLS, the steel criss-cross girders ensure that sunlight is broken up.No need for a parasol! And there’s aircon.

      1. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
        Karl Liam Saur

        @Paul Inwood:
        Broken up is hardly sufficient. Proper shadows, please. Light and shadows are contrapuntal. Without shadows, everything looks bleached.

        It would perhaps be different 20 latitude further north, roughly York….

      2. Paul Inwood Avatar
        Paul Inwood

        @Karl Liam Saur:

        I have been in the building many times prior to its new incarnation. I have never found sun to be a problem at all, at any time of day. I assume the same will be true in the future.

  5. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
    Karl Liam Saur

    All that sunlight at <34N latitude would want to make be bring some clouds…would be too relentless for me.

  6. J. Hadley Avatar
    J. Hadley

    The renovations have always been ill conceived. They first took a building who’s vocabulary was light, volume and translucency and turned it into something akin to a concrete bunker. Now, not only is the interior bleak, but it is liturgically retrograde. It would have been better to leave the original sanctuary at this point.

  7. Paul R. Schwankl Avatar
    Paul R. Schwankl

    I’m shocked to find myself differing with Paul Inwood on anything. But while I share his aesthetic and theological misgivings about the baldachin, I favor an altar cross on the scale proposed for Christ Cathedral. “A populo congregato bene conspiciatur,” says GIRM 308; it seems to me that considerable spiritual benefit is forgone if the altar cross is small in comparison with its surroundings or placed out of the way. Only once have I seen a processional cross that was large enough (IMO) to carry this spiritual-symbolic weight and also safe for the average person to carry: it’s in a church that remodeled its platform down to about 18 by 12 feet, with an extremely compact altar, an ambo right alongside, and the ministerial seats off the platform entirely. The brass processional cross, about 7 feet high with the corpus about a foot tall, is placed behind the altar and ambo and isn’t overwhelmed by the surrounding presbytery.
    Tastes differ, but I don’t understand how a suspended altar cross could be obtrusive unless it were monstrously large; the one planned for Christ Cathedral seems modest to me. (I suppose someone at the Vatican might complain that Jesus isn’t suffering enough on it.) What’s it obtruding upon—the view of the organ? The organ itself is open to the complaint that it covers Philip Johnson’s wall. And I’m not seeing what sight lines the proposed cross—as opposed to the baldachin—is blocking.

      1. Paul R. Schwankl Avatar
        Paul R. Schwankl

        @Karl Liam Saur:
        I don’t think I’d want anything that imposing in new construction. Our current artists may do fine work, but they aren’t Giotto.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *