The following excerpt comes from a story, “A Tale of Two Cathedrals,” about the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston and the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland. The article was originally printed in Chiesa Oggi in 2009 and re-printed in Crisis magazine on August 29, 2012. It was written by Nikos Salingaros, an architectural theorist, a long-time associate of Christopher Alexander, and a mathematical physicist at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
….The Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland, by Skidmore Owings & Merrill Architects, is a postmodernist innovation, expressing new forms and typologies. It presents one of many possible answers to the question of “how can we extend the traditional ecclesiastical typology using new methods?” At first glance, it is a very successful innovation indeed, creating space, light, and a feeling of openness, as an attractive alternative to neo-traditional designs. The materials are certainly innovative and play a major role in the impression the worshiper experiences inside the Cathedral. The Church is pressured both by its members and by its administration to appear innovative and not retrograde, so such a commission is seen as an advance in the sponsorship of contemporary forms for Church architecture….
The Oakland Cathedral gives free reign to a very interesting wooden slat typology that rises up to the sky to define a very large interior space, open and full of light. This is the sort of thing an innovative architect would like to do when liberated from the need to build a traditional church volume. But when I ask some key design questions, the answers seem elusive. Why are the wooden slats horizontal instead of vertical? Are we not trying to connect vertically to the universe, to transcend the materiality of this building so that our souls can rise upwards? Curious: maybe the slats have to shade the worshippers from the direct sun; I don’t know. A lot of effort was put into the adjustable roof curtain panels, but was all of this technology necessary? Why not just build a simple roof in the first place? Technology becomes the principal focus here.
The building’s entrance is unfortunately low, horizontal, and deeply recessed. Altogether not very inviting, since you have to pass under a thick concrete overhang that looks and feels uncomfortably heavy.
And there are the strange, not to say stubborn asymmetries. Why do some components extend outwards into the church interior? What is the reason for the large glass wall and ceiling? Why are the concrete walls on the ground level curved, and how is this specific curvature determined? Why the inconsistency in the door sizes and orientations cut into the concrete wall? I’m sorry but I cannot see any obvious answer to these questions, and if it is not obvious from the geometry itself, I am not going to believe any invented explanation by the architects. Could it be that they are playing here with images of modernity and post-modernity? In that case, all of these games detract from the original purpose of the building, which is to connect people with God. I have a hint at an answer that disturbs me, although I cannot be sure: the use of brutalist concrete. This material is, in my opinion, fundamentally unholy. Gray, damp, and acoustically hard, it represents the opposite of the welcoming surface of a place of worship. For millennia, church surfaces were finished in materials that conveyed a love for the Creator. I see no love in this most unfriendly material, the precedent set by Le Corbusier notwithstanding.
I’m sorry, but there seems to be sufficient reason to suspect that the Oakland Cathedral is not as innovative as it would at first appear. The reason I’m saying this is that the architects have resorted to using typologies from the modernist form language, the one that eliminated the Vienna Secession and the Art-Deco form languages in the 1920s. Brutalist concrete is the “dead” giveaway. From the outside, the building does not distinguish itself from any other glass-and-steel high-rise: another example of architectural conformity. Maybe it’s not an office building because it is round instead of a rectangular box, but then it is more likely a theater or sports arena. The metal rods sticking up from the roof are purely decorative, and add no spiritual meaning to the structure. They provide no lightness or upwards directionality as in the case of Gothic pinnacles. We have the inclusion of a post-modernist incongruence where different materials meet, and deconstructivist elements in the slanting door openings in the raw concrete base. Harmony is avoided because walls slant, doors do not align, elements are unmatched with respect to each other; the overall impression is one of missed coherence. This effect is architecturally “fashionable”, but that does not make it appropriate. It is used in museums of contemporary art, where the art objects themselves are often just as twisted and incoherent as the building that houses them.
The wooden slats at and near ground level lend some natural ambience to the interior space, but there is so much concrete that this positive natural element is overwhelmed. More important, the geometries of the forms created by the wooden slats on the ground floor seem hardly rational: curved, leaning see-through walls, for what possible reason? It all seems so arbitrary, so very “design”. Some people may get excited over this, but I find it unharmonious….
To read original story, click here.
What’s wrong with Oakland’s Cathedral of Christ the Light? It cost over $200M! The Diocese of Oakland isn’t large and that is a crushing debt for it to shoulder. Interesting that construction began under the very “conservative” Bishop Allen Vigneron.
To suggest that “concrete is, in my opinion, fundamentally unholy” is simply obtuse. A mean-spirited statement that was meant to offend. One of my favorite churches of all time is the Basilica of St. Pius X in Lourdes, France. It’s underground, it’s utilitarian, it’s all formed concrete and it’s more “holy” (and plays a more important part in the Church) than the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston could ever hope to be.
Speaking of the bowling lane-like Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston. It’s pedestrian at best. Poor and obstructed view of the sanctuary. Poor acoustics for a new cathedral. It’s like a cheap, modern reproduction of what many churches used to look like (except for the real expensive ones like St. Peter’s and the Hagia Sophia) when they didn’t have the expertise, materials or money to build wider structures without obstructions.
For the record, planning for the cathedral began in 2000. Archbishop Vigneron was tranferred to Oakland in January 2003 as coadjutor, ultimately succeeding Bishop Cummins in October 2003. Groundbreaking ceremonies for the cathedral were held in May, 2005.
By the time that Bishop Vigneron came to Oakland plans were well underway, and significant funds had been spent in fees for the design phase. While he could have, in fact, scuttled the project prior to groundbreaking, he chose instead to influence the elements of the design that had not yet been finalized.
Good people can disagree whether Archbishop Vigneron made the right decision in this regard. Certainly his decision was influenced by the fact that Oakland had been without a cathedral since St. Francis de Sales was structurally damaged by the earthquake of 1989.
As far as cathedral design is concerned it is understanding that Bishop Vigneron who came up with the now infamous “Lite-Bright Jesus.” I think it is quite unfortunate that the bishop could have stopped this project in its tracks but refused to do so, instead leaving the diocese with crippling debt and then simply moving on, as well as leaving the former cathedral parish (St. Mary’s-St. Francis de Sales-St. Andrew-St. Joseph) in a shambles, for better or worse. I think Bishop Vigneron only thought of Oakland as a stepping-stone to something bigger and better. Reminds me of the way our politicians spend money, thinking only of their careers and not giving a thought that future generations will have to pay for the mess they create.
Actually Rodda is correct
Under Bishop Cummings, Santiago Calatrava was initially chosen as architect for the new cathedral.
Later, after Bishop Vigneron was installed (2003), Mr Hartman was assigned as architect to replace the Mr. Calatrava.
So Mr Hartman’s design was adopted
with some modifications from Bishop Vigneron and others advisors.
With a new architect and design, came the opportunity
to begin again-which they did.
The ground was not broken until 2005.
Gaudy on the outside. On the inside sort of like a Jewish deli … will they sacrifice a red heifer on that altar?
This guy Salingaros admits off-the-bat that he has NOT VISITED the Oakland Cathedral or the Houston Cathedral when he wrote this piece. He acknowledges that it is ONLY by being physically present in a building can a person have a surer “experience” of it. He has, in my view, shot his argument on the foot and has discredited his own critique of both Cathedrals.
I agree 100% So many people on forums such as this one judge things based on snap-shots found on the Internet.
The article is sheer, unadulterated nonsense. But there seems to be a lot of that posted on this site.
This site is heavy on personality … ok, let me rephrase it … personality efforts. Bl JPII promoted the move of developing individual personality in union with Christ. So, I’d say development begins with effort, and not with fear of revealing want of personality.
So very true!
Rodda once again you display utterly ignorance. You must be infected with what the church has done wrong for years….judged on things based on snap shots…really? WOW! You certainly are very opinionated. Maybe to some but you have to respect that some are more appreciative of real Cathedrals. Just because you don’t take the time to respect that difference, does not mean you are right about how you perceive others.
Jim McCrea I agree, make sure you include your comments and Rodda’s because I consider your comments to be a tone of none sense and ignorance….
Goodness. Who made Abeca judge and jury deciding on who in this blog is ignorant¨and nonsense?
I haven’t seen the cathedral and I’m not an architect, but the photos do not look like a Christian religious structure. The interior slats should be vertical, not horizontal. They should be pointing upward, toward Heaven, to lead our eyes and thoughts toward God. The exterior looks like it could be part of an arena or shopping center. Must everything be modern? We need churches that remind us, at least to some extent, of traditional churches, to bring out thoughts away from the everyday sights and back to what we are accustomed to thinking of as a place of Christian worship, a haven from everyday commercial buildings. While it would be outrageously expensive to construct a church using carved stones, concrete could be used in a more traditional style.
The Rogmahal is mostly ugly concrete as well!
God bless, yours in Their Hearts,
Kenneth M. Fisher
In the Middle Ages when the beautful cathedrals and monasteries were constructed, the builders believed in God, and practiced their faith. When one turns away from God , and believes in the world, then ugly art appears. Even though beauty exists in the eye of the beholder, one cannot compare the masterpieces of the past with the existentialism art of modern man. Instead of inspiring, and having the beholder ponder God and the eternal, modern art focuses on the mundane and the present. There is no argument concerning taste, but a thing of beauty is a joy forever, and these modern churches will not stand the test of time.
So you say…
“So you say” = “A mean spirited statement that was meant to offend.”
“I won’t insult your intelligence by suggesting that you really believe what you just said” …..William F. Buckley Jr. on hypocrisy
haha! According to Chesterton, we ought to see far enough into a hypocrite to see even his sincerity. But on the other hand, a little sincerity ‘is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.’ say-eth Oscar Wilde. What’s a poor girl to do?
May all the Rodda-ites keep to these buildings they worship, and stay away from serious worship of Christ.
Has been a priest in many parts of the world, you are not even in the same league!
God bless, yours in Their Hearts,
Kenneth M. Fisher
Rodda, as a (practicing) Catholic, a (trying) Christian and a (struggling) member of civil society, I extend to you my deepest sympathy and compassion for how you have been treated on this website.
Anon please stop adding a tone of victim here…it is Rodda who is bashing the ones who prefer more traditional worship buildings….please stop adding more to her mind, Rodda may thrive on your comments and true dialogue will not develop.
STOP THIS INDIFFERENCE!
Wouldn’t it be funny if Rodda and Anonymous were one and the same. heh heh. Thanks for all your comments, Abeca.
Dana the thought may have crossed my mind there too but I blocked it, wanted to give Rodda the benefit of the doubt but there is always that fifty fifty chance…
thanks to you too sweets, I appreciate your comments very much in defense of the faith..God bless you always! : )
Rodda Father Karl is correct…
Where’s the Tabernacle??????????????
right in the middle, behind the altar.
rather hard to miss, given the red candle burningg next to it…
Only when they bother to actually light it.
Visit the place and find out. There is an entire eucharistic chapel, the focal point of which is a tabernacle.
From the outside it looks like an aviary. Inside it looks like an ark. Ark is an expression I can appreciate but still find inappropriate for worship; for the temple. Center altars are completely incongruent with the Theology of the Mass.
I have been to the Oakland Cathedral. It is rather shocking when you first enter, because of it’s bare bones interior. I could sense God there and that is the main point of any church. Simple materials concrete, glass and wood may reflect the simple things that Jesus used in His ministry: spit, dirt, water, wine. Does not the horizontal slat interior give the feeling of being inside an ark. The great pixel of Jesus leading us over the choppy waters. The entrance is like the entrance of the animals to Noah’s ark. Not unlike Wright’s low entrances to his houses. We come in with heavy burdens or baggage and then are spirits are lifted. I do like the large baptismal font in front of the large glass window looking out to Lake Merritt. Our transformed selves need to connect to the world outside and help them to change.
at least you gave your favorable opinion of this place without bashing those who differ in sentiments….God bless you..although I may not agree with you but God bless you….
Most of the questions poised seem to be pure nonsense, but from the picture of the outside of the building, it looks as though someone is embarrassed to be known as Roman Catholic and would rather be considered as an American “catholic” such as Pelosi, Kerry, the Kennedys, Biden, etc. and they would be very comfortable to “worship” in an office building. +JMJ+
What can one say except this cathedral was a disaster in every respect from it’s origins. It now stands as a monument to the modernist approach to our religion formed at Vatican II. 60 million in debt and no way to pay for it just like current teaching and leadership. What the cathedral looks like is not important it is what it provides to us a Catholics that does and that starts with zero inspiration.
Says who, you?
It cost far, far too much for a diocese the size and wealth of Oakland. But aside from that you’re simply expressing you personal opinion of what a cathedral should look like.
Good grief, Rodda, such hostility! Your rude retort to Robert Lockwood can be said to you:
Says who, you? You are simply expressing your personal opinion of what a comment should be like.
Everyone here — the author of this article and every commenter, including you — is expressing his/her personal opinion.
She’s got a rude ‘tude, Maria, but that’s just my opinion. I’ll bet she’s in her twenties or in her forties, and miles to go before she sleeps. Remember being so impatient with the older generation and thinking they were all so square? It doesn’t take that long before we’re suitably humbled. That’s why I keep coming back to CCD like a bad penny, to help meet my mortification quota on the narrow road to heaven. ;o)
Dana I don’t think it has anything to do with age…truly…personal experience….
Once again you are completely out of your league.
If this “Robert Lockwood” is the writer lecturer I know, YOU ARE WAY OUT OF YOUR LEAGUE!
YES SAYS I!
God bless, yours in Their Hearts,
Kenneth M. Fisher
Rodda for ages the church did have spiritual ground on how a place of worship should look like, even there were great saints who have described….look further into the writings of earlier saints and doctors of the church…
Yes, these new cathedrals are greatly lacking in inspiring a sense of awe and transcendense. Rather, they are a homage to the stripped down mentality that characterises the ‘sprit’ of Vatican II. I doubt we will see the Tridentine Mass celebrated in this cathedral or at Our Lady of the Angels or when the Christ Cathedral opens in Garden Grove.
We can only hope that the Retrograde Follies will NOT be “celebrated” in the places you mention.
You can almost bet the farm on that!
God bless, yours in Their Hearts,
Kenneth M. Fisher
Govt bailout maybe.
Concrete is unholy? Really? What precisely is it about concrete that make it unholy? Is it the cement? The water? The sand? The aggregate? Perhaps it is the unholy people that produce it. The writer makes mention of concrete’s gray color. What if the manufacturers added different color to the concrete? Would that make it holy? What about concrete bricks colored red or fashioned like natural stone so they looked like the churches back east or of Europe? Is that what it would take to transform unholy concrete into holy concrete? What about places on the planet where Catholics worship where stone, brick or whatever is not readily available? Or perhaps where these kinds of building materials are not part of their architectural culture? I’m thinking of parts of southeast Asia, Africa and the Middle East. I suppose if they used bamboo or wood (or concrete) and fashion a church that does not look like the “Gothic pinnacles” of Europe, then I suppose in the writer’s eyes these people are worshiping God in unholy structures and thus somehow displeasing God. Ok, whatever! I think this writer needs to focus more on what’s in a person’s heart on not what they wear on their sleeve. If in this diocese the People of God and their local culture calls for a church made of concrete and horizontal slats of wood and that lifts their hearts toward God, then so be it. I hate to think what the writer will say next about the Diocese of Orange’s acquisition of the Crystal Cathedral. I guess we’ll be reading about that one next.
I’ve not visited this cathedral or the new ones in L.A. or Orange either, but I generally dislike the modernist / postmodernist approach to design. As for materials, though, it’s unclear what makes one material holy and another unholy. No materials are purely natural (unless stacking unshaped stones) or purely unnatural (geologist here, glad to see the term ‘aggregate’ used), if that’s the criterion. Worth mentioning that one of the most ancient churches in the world, the basilica dedicated to Our Lady but commonly known as the Pantheon in Rome, is covered with a vast dome made of . . . wait for it . . . concrete. In fact it’s one of the engineering wonders of the ancient world. Not originally built as a church of course, but adapted. The recipe for concrete was lost for about 1,500 years, thus no use of it in medieval churches or other construction. The problem isn’t with the materials, but in the design, and how the materials are used.
I’m not sure what the intent of this article is supposed to be, but I have visited and worshipped at both cathedrals in Oakland and Houston (as well as San Francisco and other cities). While I tend to favor the Romanesque and Gothic architectural styles that are typical of many if not most cathedral churches in the U.S., the Oakland cathedral does provide an interesting if not provoking study. Its name of “Christ our Light” is indeed well chosen because the sanctuary and seating areas are well illuminated by natural light during liturgies. Its rather stark, almost lifeless, interior comes to life with the beautiful and colorful participatory celebrations of Eucharist by truly dedicated Catholic people. Songs and responses were sung in not only English but also Vietnamese and Spanish — at the same Mass — reflecting the diversity of this particular assembly gathered, all in praise and worship of the one and same Lord of All.
Is Jesus Christ diverse, or is He one? Are His people diverse or are they one in Him?
“And we ourselves experience this, that when we enter ornate and clean
Basilicas, adorned with crosses, sacred images, altars, and burning lamps, we most easily conceive devotion. But, on the other hand, when we enter the temples of the heretics, where there is nothing except a chair for preaching and a wooden table for making a meal, we feel ourselves to be entering a profane hall and not the house of God.” –St. Robert Bellarmine
It also has a 2.5 million dollar organ which sounds very off key – this Cathedral was built against the advice of other church leaders and at a time when it’s parishioners were hurting for jobs, foreclosures were pending and health care was limited and these factors remain so today – There is no leadership in the Oakland Diocese & never has been – can only hope for the future –
I’m truly sorry, Eric. This is your diocese, then? My daughter-in-law (a lapsed Catholic) was visiting me last week and thought my church was very protestant looking…modern, bare walls, no art to speak of…and that is what I felt but hadn’t been able to express as I had nothing to compare it to, as I’m a convert. What strikes me, besides all the ugliness and banality, is the protestant look of this cathedral. A modern John Calvin would love its spare decor and ‘clean’ lines. It makes me sad to think how many souls shrivel up in its dreaded sepulcher-ish confines. brrrrrrr.
Dana you are a good writer….creative…
the TABERNACLE is dead center, in the traidtional spot, behind the altar.
it’s easily seen.
especially becauswe of the RED SANCTUARY LAMP next to it, which is always a clue…
Our Daughter received her Confirmation there. We all call it “Cement of Light”. What a terrible waste of money. Could have done much better with deserved warmth and beauty for less. The cathedral is stone cold looking. Not interested in attending any functions/ceremonies there again
Then don’t. Problem solved.
How charitably and lovingly expressed. Forgive my sarcasm, but somehow I couldn’t resist. Sometimes it is better not to say anything. Do you not find it so?
If I agreed with that axiom, I would not expect to find ANY comments at this site.
take personal responsibility first…then you can bash the rest…the rod is bigger than the splinter…
Dana humbly expressed…God bless you….
and yet you DID say something…
Yes, it was an intended irony. Next time I’ll say nothing and chuckle to myself at what I would have said.
Dana actually you did a good charitable thing because Pat didn’t deserve that harsh reply and you kindly reminded another to be more charitable….
Larry, the tabernacle is in plain view, with a perpetual candle, behind the altar. This is a wonderful building although not in the design of a middle ages building. It speaks to the people of today. The rear of the cathedral has a huge “picture” of Christ which is a replica from the doors of the cathedral at Chartes, France. The ocular glass roof shined light through the glass under the altar to the burial area below the altar. The side chapels contain wonderful works of art. The soaring crucifix behind the ambo is beautiful. The statue of Mary at the edge of the presiders chair is designed to represent Her presence in California. The organ itself is a work of art. This is a building that exudes Catholic teaching and tradition; just not in an old fashion way.
I like the “replica” part, Bob ONe … sort of like the imitation of Christ in your view, right? But why at a cost of 200 million dollars is a replica of Christ the best they could come up with? I wonder how much the real painting cost the Church at the time.
The “picture” of Christ is not a painting. It is a floor to ceiling creation, I think aluminium, with thousands of holes punched in it so that when the light shines through, the image of Christ appears. It is an amazing piece of art. You have to see it to believe it.
“I see no love for the Creator in this material.” That is very true! …”Why are the horizontal slats not vertical?” …”Why are the concrete ground levels curved, and how is this specific curvature determined?
The answer to your questions: God does not grade us on the curve. He grades us on the Cross.
It is a representation of an ark. That is why it is curved and why the slats are horizontal. There is google in the world.
The ark you say? hmmm
The Oakland Cathedral is a beautiful and wonderful church, but it required me to visit the interior of the church to fully appreciate the design.
Are you a vendor there?
I have been there a number of times. The concrete may be holy or unholy but so much of it is indeed “brutal.” And tiresome. And after awhile boring. Medieval people dressed their stone walls in tapestry. We can’t afford to do that. But isn’t there anyway to put color and warmth on those cold gray walls? The side chapels are worth visiting because they do contain a few antique pieces of art. Poor lost items.
No color, no warmth…no money to heat them in winter, just gray piles of concrete, not even beautiful granite or marble. Too expensive. Modern super expensive cheapo. Nothing to hold the eye, nothing to maintain interest. Boring.
Very good assessment, Caroline, and in the final analysis, yours is the most insightful criticism in this debate…for you spoke from your heart. I feel Tom Wolf’s criticism of modern architecture in his book “From Our House to Bauhaus” so lethally exposes its flaws. (You can see a brief selection from his interview with Bill Buckley on his old Firing LIne show on Youtube discussing this book.) The subject is so deep, and on so many levels reveals what is so wrong about our whole culture, that trying to discuss it in a few paragraphs is too frustrating. Unlike Caroline, I have never been to the Cathedral, though photos I’ve seen of its interior seemed very similar to Nazi bunker architecure of the thirties, but again I wasn’t there to see them in person, so I could be wrong and they were actually delightful, aesthetic designs. But, like Caroline, from what I can see it looks uninspired and spiritually dead and utterly, mind-numbingly boring. But, again, I could be missing the charming ambience and uplifting spirituality that is only accessible in person…kind of like meeting Ghengis Khan in person and finding out he’s a really nice guy. ;o)
caroline thank you for sharing your experience since you did visit there…. I may have driven by it and never stopped to visit…perhaps it is because it did not move me to stop….I recall when I was visiting The Catholic University of America in D.C…well I was so inspired to visit their Cathedral..awe now that is so beautiful…I would go again and visit…they also had other Catholic churches near by like a beautiful Ukrainian church too, also beautiful and angelic!
The story goes that when Bishop Cummins spoke with Pope John Paul II about the controversy and expense developing over a new cathedral, JP II smiled with a tap on the Bishop’s arm and said, “Build it!”
All the arguments about taste will forever circulate but the experience of prayer in this cathedral has been a great blessing to me personally and many I know who worship there. It is not my style essentially and my initial response was a bit of disappointment. Still it seemed to me monastic in its starkness and the acoustics are extraordinary. Moreover, the sacrifice of the Mass, Eucharistic Adoration and millions of prayers have sanctified this edifice beyond any outsider’s observations. It is truly a house of prayer – exactly what it should be.
Many orthodox of the diocese are grateful to God for his placement of a shepherd who prudently kept the Catholicity of the structure in tact while maintaining harmony amoung such divurgent voices. There are some of us in the Oakland Diocese who know well what a secular disaster was averted when Bishop Vigneron took the reigns.
Those who enjoy complaining about what the cathedral is not are unable to appreciate all that it is to those of us who call it home. I’m truly sorry for their loss..
And there will be seekers of novelties……….
Go to Google Images and type in cathedral of Christ the Light Oakland. There are a lot of pictures there that show how beautiful this church really is. There are a few pictures included from who know where, but that is what you get with Images.
Try it, you will like it!
I did, Bob One, and found that it reminds me of a Jewish deli.
LOL jewish deli? JLS you are so funny….and creative, I would of never thought of that, I don’t think I have visited a jewish deli….lol
I went, I saw, and I did not like.
Some say the Tabernacle is behind the Altar, how can you tell since there really is no behind because the Altar is in the center!
God bless, yours in Their Hearts,
Kenneth M. Fisher
Kenneth, I am glad that you went to the site to review the pictures. The altar is in the front of the church, with the choir area on the left and the chathedra on the right as you face in. The altar is raised above the floor a few steps to make it visible to all. At that level, there is a walkway to the rear of the church that takes you directly to the tabernacle. If you go behind that wall, there is a chapel with the tabernacle. Very prominents.
I’m sorry you didn’t like what you saw. Time for another art appreciation class? :)
Art? Well, there you go, the whole place is an art demonstration, then, by Bob One’s admission.
I for awhile studied Industrial Design, I changed back to Engineering when I realized that someone who actually went upstairs while placing a canvas below down stairs and dripped paint on the canvas got a better grade than I who painted a realistic image of something.
I have also visited the Cathedral in Sad Francisco, and I had the same reaction and told Archbishop Khai who was with me that (he was visiting the Confraternity for help with his Missions).
God bless, yours in Their Hearts,
Kenneth M. Fisher
Kenneth, when I was in college in c. 1970 I almost went into acting, especially comedy (I got the timing and stage presence) until I realized the whole faculty was gay. In fact one night a group of drama grad students came by for a visit, and to recruit me … after a while I drew out their primary focus, and graciously sent them packing. What a bunch of idiots there were!!!
Look at the picture at the top of this article. The Tabernacle is very prominent – it is the shining “silver” square behind the altar, built into the wall. Lost in plain sight? As you can tell, I really llike the building and I like worshiping in it whenever I can.
Bob On, how do you know it is silver? I could be polished aluminum. More importantly why isn’t it gold?
Bob One I’ll try to stop by the next time I drive by just to satisfy your recommendations but does not mean that I will see eye to eye with you…..OK to be continued…but it won’t be in the near by future because I have other priorities first.
Been there too many times Bob One… it’s a piece of crap: sophomoric design, stark industrial concrete, no finish, no detail, lousy acoustics. Just like the famous description of Oakland the city: there is no there there. The on-site Bishop’s residence looks like a bomb shelter. I actually feel sorry for any Bishop who gets sent to this gulag of a diocese and is then forced to reside in a bunker. It’s no wonder they all want out as soon as they arrive.
I hate to burst your balloon, gravey, but neither Bishops Begin nor Cummins “wanted out.” They were intelligent pastoral bishops who believe that their role was to shepherd this diocese, not pave their way to a prettier frock and a pointier hat.
But that kind of bishop doesn’t get created anymore. There are only so many cardinalate sees and a whole lot pretenders for those few thrones. The behind-the-scenes cat fights must be something to behold!
They sure did shepherd the flock into the future … celebrated now at the Folsom Street Fair. But in all fairness, I have to say that the last time I was in Frisco was 1975. I can’t recall any favorable experience there, I think because there were none. What a hellhole of a city!
JLS – get your geography correct. Begin and Cummins were bishops of OAKLAND, not San Francisco. Folsom Street Fair is in SF – you know, across the bay from Oakland.
Well Jimbo, Bishops Begin and Cummins didn’t have a choice; Oakland was the end of the line. Actually, your response supports my point. However, I will concede that when it comes to cat fights, you are certainly the expert.
gravey good comments on the design of this buidling…
Funny how we seem to know how to train Archbishops!
Umm hmnn. You sure do, Bob One. But what would you do if some day an actual holy archbishop came to town and set things straight? You’d be out on your duff.
It is an empty protestant temple!
Paula I hear that often from many who have visited even from people who are not so very devout. I know that my in-laws who are protestant, they actually love it!
The Cathedral of Christ the Light inspires devotion to God in the Real Presence whenever I have the pleasure of stepping inside. I’ve travelled to Europe and visited many beautiful Cathedrals and Churches; however, Christ the Light is inspirational and sacred- at least for myself!
FHKJ, what a positive attitude! Thank you for sharing.
Anon are you into new age or what? What a positive attitude you say? He is merely expressing how he feels about it, so did others but the opposite, they too are positive but towards more reverent inspiriting Cathedrals!
The interior looks somewhat cold and sterile to me. I don’t care for the wooden slats. Where are the stained glass windows and statues? I prefer a more traditional look. The outside looks somewhat odd to me. I have a book about the city of Lvov in Ukraine. This city has many beautiful churches. In fact the city of Lvov (which used to be in Poland) was once called the “Polish Florence.” I have a preference I suppose for Gothic and Romanesque churches and also Eastern churches with “onion domes”.
PA, I once worked in a factory with a Jewish woman from Lvov. She and her mother and sister resided in a large apartment building during the Nazi occupation. They were the only Jews in that complex and the Catholics protected them.
JLS, my mother’s parents were both born in the Lvov province. I still have relatives there. They are in Podkarpackie province which is the section of Lvov province that remained in Poland. The city, which before the war had a majority of Polish Roman Catholics is now mostly Ukrainian Catholic as most of the Polish people were forced to leave at the end of World War II. When Ukraine became an independent country the Ukrainian Catholics took back many of their churches which Stalin had handed over to the Orthodox. The Roman Catholic Church also gave some of their churches to the Ukrainian Catholics, in particular the Gothic Church of St Elizabeth.
PA it was interesting to read your point of view on this…I guess i would have to agree with you on your comments, and I did like how you expressed your point of view without calling others negative or haters for not being for this building…glad you understand us there as to why we are not for this building….but one can respect the differences of sentiments. I only react when some here amount to name calling those who have a distaste for this expensive building…when you spend a lot of money…why not build something truly within tradition…..to lead to inspire to know the roots of Catholicity.
Yes, Abeca Christian, I can understand why some people don’t care for this building and it may have been too expensive. I do like the more traditional churches and I have a certain fondness for Eastern Rite churches. I am probably somewhat traditional in this regard.
PA check out some of the old Cathedrals from the Ukraine.. Truly beautiful too.
I have attended Mass at the Cathedral many times and all I can say is it is a moving and uplifting experience. There is an airiness in this space which gives me the feeling of being outside. I love this Cathedral. I am no architecture expert, but I am very sensitive to my environment and this space makes me feel spiritual and prayerful. I recommend a visit.
Why don’t you simply go outside, where the experience will be real? But, really, your post almost makes my day, at least for a moment or two: Someone goes to Mass to feel uplifted as if they are outside. This is good … I will have to remember it. I always knew there was some real talent on this blog … let’s do Catholic comedy.
What an architectural horror! Hideous!
But, Anton, would it be a good setting for a remake of Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame?
i love it!
it lifts my soul to the heavens!
and they give great tours of the church, and of the mausoleum underneath!
They’re building a new cathedral for you max, made out of redwood chips that you love so much.
i’ll even chip in a few!
fellows you are both hilarious…who accused this website to be boring? they are joking cause you two can be entertaining with a touch of humor….
Monuments to the incredible disaster which has befallen us since the Council.
They speak the truth about us.
Rick short comment you made but the one in which bares much truth…your comment tells it all.
Just prior to the opening of the cathedral, I joined a tour given by the then-provost, and brought along with me my then-two year-old son who enjoyed the tour from the vantage of my shoulders. As we were walking away from the yet unfinished cathedral following the tour, I asked my son if he liked the church. “Ship” he replied. “No, church”. “No, ship”, he again replied. I gave up. This brief discourse illustrated the difficulty many will have with the forms and images one encounters in one of America’s newest cathedrals. Contemporary cathedral-building in America is difficult at best. Msgr. James Gaffey very successfully explained the difficulties of contemporary cathedral building in his paper on the building of St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco. Though written many years ago, it carefully examines every aspect of the vision, design, utility and politics that went into the building of what is commonly known as “McGucken’s Maytag” and I invite all of you who are truly interested in exploring contemporary cathedral building in Baltimore, San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles or Houston to source this work by Gaffey. There are many features I enjoy in the Oakland cathedral. Most notably, in my humble submission, are the wooden slats that envelope the congregation. Having worshipped at St. Mary’s Cathedral where sound and warmth dissipate rapidly into the soaring vaults, I felt that those charged with design of the Oakland cathedral correctly understood the necessity to envelope and gather together the congregation in a building formed primarily in concrete and glass. Still, one must ponder, but not for very long, whether one’s lasting impression of the building is church or ship?
like the barque of Peter? like Noah’s Ark?
The altar is raised above the floor a few steps to make it visible to all. At that level, there is a walkway to the rear of the church that takes you directly to the tabernacle. If you go behind that wall, there is a chapel with the tabernacle. Very prominents.
Oh,so that’s where the Tabernacle is.!!!!!!!
The design of the cathedral and architect contract deal was made by by Cummings. Bishop V. took reign as bishop and was handed the deal in his lap. The deal was cealed at that point. Bishop V did his best to improve the aesthetic by adding the unique and traditional /orthodox large Icon image behind the main altar. Thank the Lord he was able to get that accomplished. A really big negative of this cathedral is the horrific acoustics. The cement perimeter lower walls that surround the entire structure are hyper reflective to sound and combined with the glass cause delays of all sounds. Prior to the final design plan I attended a small public forum with B. Cummings and a representative of the architect firm. As an audio technologist by profession, I was very interested in the audio acoustics of this odd cement and glass design. I asked several simple questions and was given smooth uninformed answers with no detail other than ~we are using the latest computer audio design modeling technology. Well I’ve heard that utopian answer too much in my experience and thus I was very concerned. The result is that they took a flying leap of faith in this architect firm’s PR about acoustic design that proved they knew little about coherent sound design as it exists in this decade.
Supply everyone with wifi ear phones as they enter the building.
St. Margarets in Oceanside California is a good example of how a Mordern Catholic Church should look.
Mbûkû I was just in the Oceanside area last week, I am curious about your recommendation, I will definitely stop by the next time I go up that area (if I remember too) and see what you are talking about. God bless you : )
Its a work in progress. They need to pay for this church first and then they will probably move on to stain glass windows and a proper high altar.
Meanwhile. They are only one of two churches in north county that offer the TLM together with St. Mary’s Escondido.
Problem is, the times are off the wagon for TLM crowd, who like morning mass.
I think with the Anglican Catholics being invited to share St. Margaret’s we might see a morning TLM for Oceanside.
Pretty cool….thanks for the info.. : )
Is it any wonder that the Diocese of Orange bought the infamous protestant Crystal Cathedral? After building this $200 million “monument” (in Rick’s words), it seems as though the Crystal Cathedral purchase was a great example in 1) keeping up with the Jones and 2) buying at a bargain basement price of only $50 million! Just remember what they say about crowds gathering in glass houses, especially in earthquake prone California! Its a good thing these dioceses have alternative sources of income like profits from rental/leased properties to pay the mortgages otherwise with the shrinking tithing due to shrinking attendance on weekends, how would they pay the mortgages? The more I look at these monuments, the more they remind me of Superman’s Crystal Home up at the North Pole and the Star Wars federation parliament inner chamber building. Lots of glass/ice, and lots of concrete. OBTW, where are the tabernacles?
Doug have you seen the Mormon temple in La Jolla, CA….wow that sure stands out when I drive by it, sometimes I have to even hold my breath, it’s huge (kinda scary to me) and it looks like a caste to be exact….you see, one expects that from a non-Catholic building, to look like it’s own but why are Catholic churches changes and turning more like office building or just secular odd buildings…what happened to their Catholicity… something went wrong, terribly wrong…
Abecca, Yes I have driven by it many times but have never stopped to visit. Although the white steeples and architecture are inspiring, they are not Catholic. I do have friends that are Mormons and have a lot of respect for the Mormon members, particularly in their family values which seem to exceed those of average modern catholics; however that is as about as far as my affiliation goes. I can’t accept whatever creed they believe in because it is not Roman Catholic so theirs is not completely true, and mormon theology has big areas that don’t make any sense just like in nearly every protestant religion. Only the Roman Catholic Faith is 100% true and sensible, taught by Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself; no other religion on earth or in outerspace can make that claim! Other religions are only imposters at best. I don’t believe in ecumenism, so I won’t pray with Mormons as ecumenism is compromising our Roman Catholic faith with another faith that isn’t 100% true and the end result is diluting of the truth, causing those that are weak in their Roman Catholic faith to begin to question the truth and falter. Like our Lord said when it comes to our Roman Catholic faith, we are to become like little innocent children and believe, having full trust in God knowing that He is taking care of us, better than the birds of the air. Why the changes in church architecture you question? Before sharing my opinion on that, that is not the only change the modern church has made. Look at the changes in all the 7 sacraments if you are old enough to remember them. Look at the landscape which used to be populated with thriving and more Roman Catholic parishes, churches, schools, universities, convents, and hospitals, its vanishing before our eyes. Look at our daily lives in our nation, it is becoming godless. God is unwanted by so many, even baptised modern Catholics refuse to let God enter into or rule their lives. They are more into their own little worlds. Is it anywonder 2/3rds don’t believe in transubstantiation according to national surveys? Where are the daily devotions, prayers, and sacrifices our great-grandparent Roman Catholics made? You won’t find sterile monuments like this in parishes holding fast to tradition, the Tridentine Latin Mass, 7 original holy sacraments in latin, truly holy and virgin clergy who love God and do all for God long before considering themselves. You can see their sacrifices, reverence to God, holiness, and the path toward heaven they have taken upon themselves and their parishes sheep whom they are leading with devotion. The Roman Catholic parishes holding to tradition have beautiful, ornate Churches with the tabernacle centered on the main ornate altar lifted in the sanctuary, lit by a sanctuary candle with a overseeing crucifix, statues of Mary, Joseph, angels, and the saints, with beautiful colored pictureque stainglass windows and stations of the cross. Religious pictures, real vigil lights, altar rail, baptisimal font, and real confessionals too with examination of conscience cards. And to top it off, leaving the best for last, our Lord present, body, blood, soul, and divinity, in the tabernacle. Now for my answer, simply due to a void in sanctifying grace! May God bless you.
I agree….well all in all the Mormon sect is a cult…the temple in La Jolla is only for members who donate the most. But we can expect that from any non catholic building…we must maintain our Catholicity…that will truly bring more souls to Christ…His Beautiful Catholic Church…our precious faith, we can not keep compromising and watering it down anymore…we must inspire and lead many to look to the heavens not only through what the church teaches in Christ but also through how one can look to our Cathedrals and inspire many to look to the heavens and have a zeal to seek Christ and pray for his sanctifying grace….all directing them to heaven….
I only grew up in the NO mass but for some reason God has presented him self to me through His rich traditions….that is what I fell in love with…but I am also very Charismatic too…
What about church design that does not intrude on the spiritual “senses”, but encourages them? People often think “spiritual” means music, art, eloquence. But these are external things, things of the physical senses.
Which is why, when you read such mystical saints as St Teresa of Avila or any of them, they do not tell you what they experienced … because they can’t. Do you think they’d be able to experience the mystical aspect of religion with all the commotion found in contemporary architecture? Remember, that this architecture informs those of little faith and no or not much sense of what is spiritual … and it moves them to make noise and commotion.
This new architecture is ugly, and not conducive to prayer.
Church Architecture and Art should be reminders that bring us closer to God.
Abecca, You know its funny, I to wonder why our Lord removed the scales from my eyes to see the truth. My early childhood years and altar boyhood were in the old Roman Catholic Church of our great-grandparents, grandparents, and parents. With the forced implementation of Vatican 2 changes my parents had nowhere else to turn and follow what they believed was correct, to follow the Vatican 2 council. Why did He select millions of others to see the truth but not everybody? Why is it that we can see the huge difference between the unchangeable Roman Catholic Church holding firm to tradition and the Vatican 2 Church, and others are blind? How can the modernists have the audacity and arrogance to think man’s modernizing changes in all 7 holy sacraments and all walks of catholic living and praying could be improved upon over what God’s Son taught us through His teachings and His holy examples? A Roman Catholic Church holding firm to tradition is so beautiful that the moment you enter the vestibule, perceive a light aroma of old incense and beeswax candles, and gaze upon the tabernacle, you instantly and humbly know without hesitation that you are in the presence of Almighty God there on the high altar! You know without a doubt and feel His omnipotent presence! A house of God where you can see other Roman Catholics kneeling (yes on kneelers humbly hanging our heads low before our God!) in devote prayer with their rosary beads in hands and lips whispering Hail Mary’s and Our Fathers as Our Lady of Fatima urged us to do. (My own preference is according to St. Louis DeMonfort’s method of saying the rosary). Yet it is so silent in Church you can hear a pin drop unlike the modern churches today where friends are having their sidebar conversations and giggles. The silence is purely to avoid distracting and disturbing others in prayer, nor offend God as they are praying to Him. Some people don’t understand the peace and quiet. Imagine what it was like when Our Lord was preaching on the hillsides to the Jews and Gentiles. Those who wanted to hear the word of God, listened attentively and silently not wanting to miss a single word He spoke. He captured their ears, eyes, and hearts and they listened devotedly. Perhaps maybe some of his enemies listened and heckled murmuring amongst themselves from the sidelines, but the devoted quietly respected our Lord’s holy words. Oh yes the Roman Catholic Church steeped in tradition is beautiful. Remember Benediction? Choirs of angelic voices singing the Asperges Me, Goria Laus, Laude Sion, Kyrie, Vidi Aquam, Alleluia-Confitiemini, Ecce lgnum, Pueiri Habraeorum, Hosana Fillio, or Ave Maria with organ music? Remember the smell of incense, or everyone wearing their modest and elegant “Sunday best” clothing attire to Sunday and holy day of obligation TLMs? Nothing but the best for our Lord and being prepared with our appropriate attire! Remember parishioners bringing with them their Marian, St. Anthony, St. Joseph’s, or Father LaSance personal Missals and silently praying the mass prayers with the holy priest dressed in beautiful vestments? Or remember how modestly and elegantly dressed were bridal parties with cleavage, shoulders, and upper arms respectably covered? The bridal parties in those days were more attractive than the immodest ones are today. Remember the mournful high requiem TLMs for our deceased loved ones? Few make it to heaven, and those that do, well purgatory is a necessary step of cleansing of soul along the way. Fewer make it directly into heaven bypassing purgatory. Remember the precise synchronization and mirror images of the altar boys in assisting the priest in the sanctuary during the solemn high and low masses? Yes I said altar boys, and the seriousness of the priest to be perfect in offering the holy Tridentine Latin Mass? Remember how we sinners used to stand in line on Saturdays and before holy mass on Sundays to receive absolution of our sins to cleanse our souls and be more worthy to receive our Lord in Holy Communion? Yes, not only has the Church architectures changed but also everything else.
That sounds so beautiful Doug. I didn’t grow up during those times, I guess I was infected by modernism. What you describe sounds like what my parents went through. My papa didn’t care to go to the New Mass, I never understood why? My mum was fine with the changes, she was born in the 50’s so I’m sure she was too young to remember. In Mexico they still held many of the traditions, so I suppose when my mum moved here in the USA, it must have been a shocker.
I was involved in my youth group, where I was called a Youth minister and helped plan activities and invite others from my public school to attend….I don’t recall them Catechizing us well but I am thankful for my Mexican grand mum, she taught us a lot on the faith…growing up also with very traditional Arabic family helped too. : )
There is one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Any other belief is heresy.
yes it never changed except man did…that is what went wrong…
Abecca, Yes Roman Catholic worship, sacraments, and prayer life, was beautiful back then and still is if you know where to find Roman Catholic parishes holding fast to tradition. They haven’t changed, and unfortunately the modernists aren’t warm and friendly about them. Perhaps the modernists feel threatened as they have gone so very far in making their liberal changes. It is not the Roman Catholics holding fast to tradition that they should be afraid of, but fear in losing their modernist/liberal souls. You see God is the Alpha and the Omega. He created the world, wrote its physical, moral, and social laws. He does not change for anyone or any people at any time. As a loving parent, He is charitable and just; although He has granted us our liberties (so as BIG PICTURE: to separate the wheat from the chaff) He wishes for all of us to be members of the wheat (heaven bound) to follow His Will as He has demonstrated in His many examples and explained in His many parables recorded in the Gospels and the Epistles. Sadly however, most people will not follow His holy will and prefer instead to venture out on their own and offend Him, they are members of the chaff to be raked up and burned in hell’s fire. (As a parent think of your sadness and disappointment when our children don’t follow our good examples, or are obstinent or disobedient). Like our Lord said, many are called but few are chosen. This in itself is one major distinction between the Roman Catholic Church of tradition and the Vatican 2 Church. Although it is not officially said, many, many modern Vatican 2 members think sin only consists of murder and robbery, and like the protestants believe, all people except unrepentant murders and thieves are going to heaven. I have heard this erroneous kind of talk multiple times amongst modern catholics. It is protestant teaching from Luther and others. We need to pray that the modern clergy turns around and sets the record straight soon and that God will restore the Roman Catholic Church, otherwise with each day of delay, more souls are lost. OBTW, I was born in the mid 1950’s and as a young rascal, was relieved to learn I wouldn’t have to improve upon my latin responses as an altar boy. Now that I have grown up and come to appreciate the TLM, I enjoy serving and responding in latin. I love the reverence shown to God in the Roman Catholic parishes standing firm with tradition, and the latin 7 holy sacraments (especially the TLM). God only deserves the most royal treatment we can give Him. Without Him thinking of us, we would cease to exist instantaneously! May God bless and help us all find our way back to Him.
Doug you are right, they are beautiful. I think that the reason many don’t appreciate them now it has a lot to do with some of the attitudes of our current priests in some of the parishes, the current immoral sins we are seeing before us, like abortion, contraception etc..
I remember when I use to attend my local NO mass, I had a friend first introduce me to the Latin Mass, I attended with her, actually the Latin mass didn’t have a parish, it was actually done in a cemetery. I was wowed by the reverence and the rich homilies, wow it was beautiful even when it was at a cemetery. I didn’t understand it though and wished it was said in English. When I attended my regular parish I saw the difference, I talked to my pastor about it because I wanted him to help make our parish more reverent and he was so negative about the Latin Mass, he even discouraged me from attending. Well I can go on and on about it. I agree we need to pray, but I want to give you an important message a good friend gave to me…He said Jesus is still there, even in the parishes where there are many of the abuses, Jesus is humble and patient, allowing all those abuses done to His mass. But it sure hurts our pride to see our Lord treated in such irreverent way.
I agree with you, that is why for years after I was introduced to the Latin Mass, I prayed for our Lord to help us return to this precious Mass from the early times…..I see that now our Lord has answered our prayers…we have a parish that is all Latin, I hear that more parishes are having the Latin Mass….God is listening to our prayers. Lets continue to pray and may it be God’s will, His will be done, but not ours.
The term for architecture as such is Brutalism… Within moments of entering the church it seems as if all was designed by IKEA, hence me renaming the building Saint IKEA’s. Also the interior looks like a roller rink… The old cathedral was “destroyed” before being damaged in the 1989 earthquake, the beautiful wooden alter had been thrown out and the magnificent ceiling frescoes covered over with white paint. Again, Brutalism!!
Gian it does sound very brutal. Glad you shared with us more of the history of even the building that was there before.
Gian, Oh what an awful state of affairs of the old cathedral, like so many other traditional architecture RC Churches that were similarily destroyed after the V2 changes were implemented. It was all planned to be this way so that those who loved tradition could not pull it out of the ashes, revitalized, and go back to tradition. What an evil plot. I hope some traditional Roman Catholics rescued the altar, and hired experts to remove the white paint smitten on the old beautiful saintly frescoes (old european masters style oil paintings). In the end, God’s justice will be served.
Jeanie Gian educated us more about the old Cathedral. Why are there people in the church who hate the beauty from before…all I see is hatred, maybe that is why they build such ugly new office buildings and they want us to pretend they are Cathedrals. Such a tragedy…
The Cathedral doesn’t visually inspire like the old cathedrals did.
I don’t feel welcomed to see an elderly unsmiling Jesus staring down with a judgment book in His hand.
Staring down when you enter..staring…staring…staring down all through Mass.
Why couldn’t it have been an image of Jesus knocking at the door with a lantern in His hand since the cathedral was named after Christ, the Light of the World?
[Rev 3:20 Behold, I stand at the gate, and knock. If any man shall hear my voice, and open to me the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me ]
It could have been the Sacred Heart or the Divine Mercy.
The Last Judgment image could have been placed elsewhere if the designer’s intention was to include the alpha and omega themes.
Even in the Chartres Cathedral, the Last Judgment images were in a context with other related images which in turn, were among many thematic scenes.
Yes, the Last Judgment is very important but it does look Calvinistic to make it the most predominant theme. And to have it displayed at night to all oakland.
It is ironic that their one concession to traditional art was the Last Judgment while the Stations of the Cross are so abstract that they are akin to stick figures.
The traditional art is used to express the austere and punitive theme rather than express the devotional themes which would have inspired and facilitated prayer