Crystal Cathedral closing for transformation into Catholic cathedral

The giant 90-foot cross atop Tower of Hope is reflected in the windows of the Christ Cathedral, which will soon close for construction.
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

The former Crystal Cathedral will close to the public as it undergoes a transformation from a space built as a television studio as much as a sanctuary into a Catholic cathedral, the church’s new owner, the Diocese of Orange, announced Tuesday.

Beginning Sunday, the newly named Christ Cathedral will be closed for construction as crews launch a $29-million effort to restore the more than 75,000-square-foot space.

The diocese has been working with liturgical consultants and architects to modify the cathedral built in the vision of the Rev. Robert Schuller into one that meets the requirements to serve as the headquarters for Orange County’s Catholic community of more than 1.2 million people.


“The beauty and inspiration evoked by the cathedral grounds and its architecture are only surpassed by the extraordinary communities of faith that now call this campus home,” Bishop Kevin Vann said in a statement.

“The cathedral will be an international center of faith and evangelization, a vessel for the love of God, a beacon of faith, a home for neighbor and traveler, and a sanctuary for the human spirit.”

The bishop announced in September that two architectural firms, Johnson Fain and Rios Clementi Hale Studios, were selected to lead the design process.

One of the first steps in the renovation will be to remove the pipe organ — said to be one of the largest in the world — so it can be shipped to Italy and refurbished in time for the cathedral’s reopening, set for 2016.

The renovation process of the 34-acre campus began in July, when the diocese took possession of the grounds from Schuller’s ministries, which had fallen into bankruptcy.

The renovations started with the Arboretum, the first sanctuary built by Schuller, which had a unique design that allowed for him to preach to a congregation inside as well as to people who sat outside in their cars, much like the Orange drive-in theater where his ministry began.


Later, Schuller broadcast his sermons worldwide from the Crystal Cathedral — a sprawling, open-aired fabrication of metal and glass that became closely tied to Schuller and his sunny theology.

The building was designed in the late 1970s by the noted architect Philip Johnson. It took more than two years to build, and stood 12 stories tall, with an exterior of more than 10,000 panes of mirrored glass.


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