A new tapestry, featuring a 14-foot-high depiction of the cathedral’s namesake, was unveiled at Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels on the day that the Catholic Church celebrates the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.
“That’s always been the whole idea [of the new tapestry],” said Brother Hilarion O’Connor, the cathedral’s operations manager who helped shepherd the project. “The idea being the completion of the cathedral, completion of the tapestries.”
Part of that completion might have felt long overdue. If you’ve walked through the long nave of the cathedral, you’ve likely gazed upon the more than 130 images of saints depicted on tapestries hung on opposite walls.
Perhaps the most well-known of the cathedral’s artistic features, those tapestries were made by Californian painter and tapestry designer John Nava, who used real-life models for his depiction of the “communion of saints.”
But what a visitor did not see until Jan. 1, 2021, was a depiction of the most important saint of them all: Mary, whose many titles in Catholic tradition include “Mother of God” and especially for Angelenos, “Our Lady of the Angels.”
And now she has arrived, luminous, in a blue robe that distinguishes her from the saints in the nave, who now seem to look up at her, and that Nava portrayed in muted, mostly earth tones that compliment the cathedral’s natural stone.
“She is the archetypal mother, I didn’t want her to be imposing, rather, I wanted her to be open, receptive, sympathetic,” said Nava, who studied art in Florence as a young man and visited many of Europe’s cathedrals, a good deal of them dedicated to Mary. As he did with his “communion of saints” that line the wall, Nava said it was important for this final tapestry to integrate the Church’s ancient tradition and history with contemporary people and times.
“I wanted to connect it to the New World,” he said. “The greatest image of Mary in the new world, I believe, is the Virgin of Guadalupe. That’s why in her robe, I put in that floral pattern from the Virgin of Guadalupe, to refer to that figure.”