Press-Republican

On Religion

February 21, 2012

Transforming the Crystal Cathedral

It doesn't take a doctorate in church architecture to know why every pew in every Catholic cathedral allows worshippers to gaze toward the altar.

What happens on the altar during Mass is the heart of Catholic faith.

Meanwhile, architects that design Protestant churches make sure preachers have everyone's attention when they rise to preach. What happens in those pulpits is what matters for most Protestants.

The Rev. Robert H. Schuller, on the other hand, asked the legendary architect Philip Johnson to design the world's first great church specifically built for use as a studio for televised worship.

Leaders of the Diocese of Orange will have to meditate on that fact as they work to turn the Crystal Cathedral into a spiritual home for Orange County's nearly 1.3 million Catholics, according to an architect who has published a sketch of possible changes in that structure. The diocese recently completed its $57.5 million purchase of the property.

"It would be hard to imagine a more symbolic project that this one," said Matthew Alderman, a graduate of the University of Notre Dame's classical design program and an architect at Cram and Ferguson Architects in Concord, Mass. The firm specializes in traditional church designs.

"What we are going to see at the Crystal Cathedral is sort of like a collision between the therapeutic American Protestantism of the television age with all of the symbolism, art and ancient traditions of the Catholic Church and its worship."

At this point, the Diocese of Orange has not taken formal steps to hire an architect and the Crystal Cathedral congregation has three years to find a new home. Acting on his own, Alderman sketched some possible changes to illustrate a piece for an Anglican periodical called The Living Church.

It would be impossible, he noted, to retroactively convert this modernist classic -- a structure so open that it seems to have no true walls or interior space -- into what most people would consider a normal, conventional cathedral.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
On Religion
  • Terry_Mattingly.jpg Easter with doubters and the 'nones'

    Should more pastors ask this blunt question: "Do you really believe Jesus was raised from the dead?" wonders religion columnist Terry Mattingly.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Terry_Mattingly.jpg A monastery in the Hebrides, after 1,000 years

    Before Father Seraphim Aldea can build a monastery on Scotland's Mull Island, he needs to have a working septic system, writes religion columnist Terry Mattingly.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Terry_Mattingly.jpg World Vision wars 2014, and the future

    It's getting harder to work with broad coalitions when culture wars keep rocking churches, writes religion columnist, Terry Mattingly.

    April 4, 2014 1 Photo

  • Terry_Mattingly.jpg Death of an orthodox missionary -- in America

    Metropolitan Philip, leader of the Antiochian Orthodox Christians in North America, was a fierce advocate of Orthodox unity in the U.S., writes religion columnist Terry Mattingly.

    March 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Terry_Mattingly.jpg Praying for better journalism at the New York Times

    Bringing fair, informed religious viewpoints into the New York Times newsroom environment can be a challenge, writes religion columnist Terry Mattingly.

    March 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Terry_Mattingly.jpg Yet another online rant about Lent

    Small sacrifices add up, and they can help believers focus on bigger questions says a former nun, writes religion columnist, Terry Mattingly.

    March 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Terry_Mattingly.jpg The evolving state of Mormon heaven

    Mormon leaders attempt to reframe the faith's longheld doctrine of "exaltation," the belief that truly devout Mormons can rise to godhood and even create new worlds, writes religion columnist Terry Mattingly..

    March 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • Terry_Mattingly.jpg The pope and the Pentecostal smartphone

    In a call for Christian unity, Pope Francis addressed a crowd of Pentecostal Protestants with a surprising request ... and received a surprising response, writes religion columnist Terry Mattingly.

    February 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Terry_Mattingly.jpg God and millenials: it's complicated

    Nomad faith is now the American way, writes religion columnist Terry Mattingly.

    February 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Terry_Mattingly.jpg Obama on religious freedom -- overseas

    The president's defense of religious freedom doesn't square with his administration's policies on mandating health-insurance coverage of sterilizations and all FDA-approved contraceptives, writes religion columnist Terry Mattingly.

    February 14, 2014 1 Photo