Crystal Cathedral

Coordinates: 33°47′15″N 117°53′56″W / 33.787396°N 117.898933°W / 33.787396; -117.898933

Crystal Cathedral

Country United States
Denomination Reformed Church in America (1981–2012)
Roman Catholic (since 2012)
Founded 1955
Founder(s) Robert H. Schuller
Dedicated 1980
Architect(s) Philip Johnson
Style Modern architecture
Interior of the church in 2005

The Crystal Cathedral is a church building in Garden Grove, Orange County, California, in the United States. The reflective glass building, designed by American architect Philip Johnson, was completed in 1981 and seats 2,736 people.[1] The largest glass building in the world,[2] it has one of the largest musical instruments in the world, the Hazel Wright Memorial organ.[3][4][5]

Until 2013, the building had been the principal place of worship for Crystal Cathedral Ministries, a congregation of the Reformed Church in America founded in 1955 by Robert H. Schuller. Crystal Cathedral Ministries filed for bankruptcy in October 2010 and in February 2012 sold the building and its adjacent campus to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange for future use as the diocese's new cathedral. The building, especially the interior sanctuary, is currently being renovated to accommodate the Roman Catholic liturgy and is due to re-open in 2016, at which time it is expected to be consecrated and formally renamed Christ Cathedral and become the seat of the Diocese of Orange.[6]


Origins and constructionEdit

The Garden Grove Community Church was founded in 1955 by Robert H. Schuller and his wife Arvella.[7] An affiliate of the Reformed Church in America, the church first held services in space rented from the Orange Drive-In Theatre.

In 1961, the congregation moved to a new sanctuary designed by architect Richard Neutra.[7] In 1968, The Tower of Hope was completed, providing office and classroom space.[7] Continued growth led to the need for a new facility.[7] Schuller envisioned a unique facility with walls made of glass and commissioned architect Philip Johnson.[7][8] Construction on the Crystal Cathedral began in 1977 and was completed in 1980, built at a cost of $18 million.[7][8] The signature rectangular panes of glass comprising the building are not bolted to the structure; they are glued to it using a silicone-based glue. This and other measures are intended to allow the building to withstand an earthquake of magnitude 8.0.[1] The building was constructed using over 10,000 rectangular panes of glass.

Upon moving from the old Neutra sanctuary to the new Johnson sanctuary in 1981, the congregation changed its name to the "Crystal Cathedral". The name is merely an alliterative construct; the building is not made of crystal and it is not a true cathedral in that it does not house a bishop's official seat (cathedra). In 1990 the Prayer Spire was completed.[9]

2010 bankruptcyEdit

Beginning in 2010, creditors of Crystal Cathedral Ministries filed lawsuits to collect money due to them for providing goods, services and broadcasting The Hour of Power weekly TV show. A board member said that the total debt was $55 million.[10][11]

Prayer Spire in 2009

The church's board filed for bankruptcy on October 18, 2010, citing $43 million in debt including a $36 million mortgage and $7.5 million in other debt. Church officials said that they had been trying to negotiate payments but after several suits were filed and writs of attachment were granted the church had to declare bankruptcy.[12]

The church received offers for the building from a real estate investment group and from Chapman University.[13]

Purchase by the Diocese of OrangeEdit

On July 7, 2011, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, which had long been seeking to build a new and larger cathedral in or around Santa Ana, announced that it was "potentially interested" in buying the church campus for future use as its diocesan cathedral.[14] Two weeks later, the diocese followed up with an offer of $53.6 million which included a lease-back provision at below market rates for a period of time.[15][16] On November 17, 2011, a federal judge approved selling the Crystal Cathedral to the Diocese of Orange for $57.5 million.[17]

Days after the judge's ruling, Italian newspaper La Stampa used a picture of the Crystal Cathedral to illustrate an article reporting on the establishment of a Vatican commission "to put a stop to garage style churches, boldly shaped structures that risk denaturing modern places for Catholic worship."[18][19] The Vatican approved the use of the building two weeks after the judge's ruling.[20]

The sale to the diocese was finalized on February 3, 2012. Under the terms of the sale, Crystal Cathedral Ministries was allowed to lease most of the campus including the church for up to three years; the diocese offered Crystal Cathedral Ministries a longer-term lease at nearby St. Callistus Church, whose parish the diocese later transferred to the Crystal Cathedral campus.[21][22] The transfer of the cemetery located on the campus was immediate, and the diocese established offices on the campus soon after.[22] Tod Brown, Bishop of Orange at the time, stated that the diocese would hire an architect to renovate the interior of the facility "so it will be suitable for a Catholic place of worship", but does not intend to substantially change the exterior.[23]

The church in 2011

On June 9, 2012, it was announced that the building is to be known as "Christ Cathedral" when it becomes the diocese's new cathedral,[24] and that Fr. Christopher Smith will be its episcopal vicar.[25] The building's new name was designated by the Holy See, while suggestions were also taken from the diocese and its members.[26]

Crystal Cathedral Ministries held its final worship service at the Crystal Cathedral building on June 30, 2013.[27] The congregation then began holding services at the nearby Shepherd's Grove, the campus of the former St. Callistus Church, on July 7, 2013.[28] The new location is 12921 Lewis Street at Garden Grove Boulevard, one mile south of the Crystal Cathedral building.[27] At the same time, St. Callistus Parish was transferred to the Crystal Cathedral campus and began holding Masses there. St. Callistus Catholic school was renamed Christ Cathedral Academy and transferred to the former Crystal Cathedral Academy facility in September 2013.[29] St. Callistus Parish currently holds Masses in the arboretum on the Crystal Cathedral campus while the renovation of the main church building is progressing; the diocese anticipates that the renovation will be complete in 2016, at which time St. Callistus Parish and the Crystal Cathedral building will be re-dedicated as Christ Cathedral.


The church's 273 rank, five manual pipe organ is the fifth largest in the world.[30] Constructed by Fratelli Ruffatti and based on specifications by Virgil Fox and expanded by Frederick Swann, the instrument incorporates the large Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ built in 1962 for New York's Philharmonic Hall (now called Avery Fisher Hall), and the Ruffatti organ which had been installed in the church's previous sanctuary. Swann was organist at the Crystal Cathedral between 1982–1998. Following the Crystal Cathedral's final Hour of Power in June 2013, the organ was scheduled to be dismantled for a $2 million refurbishing, led by Fratelli Ruffatti, the original builder of the organ, and will be re-installed for the building's planned re-opening as Christ Cathedral in 2015.[31]

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ a b "About the Architecture". Crystal Cathedral. Retrieved 2010-03-05. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ "The World's Largest Pipe Organs". Retrieved 15 September 2012. 
  4. ^ Epstein, Benjamin (15 May 1996). "Crystal Clear Devotion : Cathedral's Organist Will Be Happy to Solo With Four Seasons Symphony on Home Turf". Los Angeles Times. 
  5. ^ "The Top 20 – The World's Largest Pipe Organs". Retrieved 15 September 2012. 
  6. ^ "The Crystal Cathedral Becomes Christ Cathedral" National Catholic Register, retrieved August 26, 2013
  7. ^ a b c d e f "History – 1955 to Today". Crystal Cathedral Ministries. 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-06. 
  8. ^ a b Lindsey, Robert (May 15, 1980). "Opening of Glass Cathedral Is a Feast for Eyes and Ears". The New York Times. p. A20. Retrieved 2010-03-05. 
  9. ^ Architecture
  10. ^ "Crystal Cathedral Owes $7.5M To Small Business Owners " CBS Los Angeles- News, Sports, Weather, Traffic and the Best of LA". Retrieved 2010-10-19. 
  11. ^ Bharath, Deepa (October 15, 2011). "Crystal Cathedral, creditors at $7.5 million impasse". The Orange County Register. Retrieved November 18, 2011. 
  12. ^ Cathcart, Rebecca (October 18, 2010). "California’s Crystal Cathedral Files for Bankruptcy". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 September 2012. 
  13. ^ Bharath, Deepa (May 26, 2011). "Crystal Cathedral to be sold to pay millions in debt". The Orange County Register. Retrieved May 27, 2011. 
  14. ^ "Southern California diocese considers buying Crystal Cathedral". Catholic News Agency. 
  15. ^ Diocese of Orange website: Formal Bid
  16. ^ "Southern California considers buying Crystal Cathedral". Catholic News Agency. 2011-07-08. Retrieved 2011-07-08. 
  17. ^ Taxin, Amy (17 November 2011). "Judge approves Crystal Cathedral sale to diocese". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 18 November 2011. 
  18. ^ Tornielli, Andrea (21 November 2011). "New Vatican commission cracks down on church architecture". La Stampa. Retrieved 12 January 2012. 
  19. ^ "Cement cubes, glass boxes, crazy shapes". California Catholic Daily. 22 November 2011. Retrieved 15 September 2012. 
  20. ^ Gibson, David (6 January 2012). "Some see Crystal Cathedral's purchase by Catholic diocese as calculated risk". Baptist Standard. Retrieved 11 January 2012. 
  21. ^ Campbell, Ronald (February 4, 2012). "Crystal Cathedral is sold". The Orange County Register. p. Local 1. Retrieved February 4, 2012. 
  22. ^ a b "Diocese of Orange Formally Acquires Crystal Cathedral and Adjacent Campus". Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange Press Release. 3 February 2012. Retrieved 6 February 2012. 
  23. ^ Medlin, Marianne (November 30, 2011). "A true miracle!". California Catholic Daily. Retrieved 15 September 2012. 
  24. ^ "Landmark Crystal Cathedral gets a new name – Christ Cathedral". 9 June 2012. Retrieved 10 June 2012. 
  25. ^ "Catholic Diocese of Orange Announces Cathedral Name" (Press release). The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange. 9 June 2012. Retrieved 10 June 2012. 
  26. ^ "L.A. Now". Los Angeles Times. 3 February 2012. 
  27. ^ a b
  28. ^
  29. ^ Morino, Douglas (9 September 2013). "Catholic schoolchildren move into former Crystal Cathedral". Orange County Register. Retrieved 6 April 2014. 
  30. ^ "The World's Largest Pipe Organs". Atlas Communications. Retrieved December 5, 2008. 
  31. ^ Tom Berg (May 17, 2013). "How will church fix Cathedral's organ?". Orange County Register. Retrieved September 29, 2013. 

External linksEdit

Last modified on 8 April 2014, at 16:12