The Crystal Cathedral is a church building of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange in Garden Grove, Orange County, California, in the United States. The reflective glass building, designed by postmodern American architect Philip Johnson, was completed in 1980 and seats 2,736 people. The largest glass building in the world, it has one of the largest musical instruments in the world, the Hazel Wright Memorial organ.
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 use as the diocese's new cathedral. The building, especially the interior, is currently being renovated to accommodate the Roman Catholic liturgy and is due to re-open in 2017, at which time it is expected to be consecrated and formally renamed Christ Cathedral and become the seat of the Diocese of Orange.
Origins and construction
The Garden Grove Community Church was founded in 1955 by Robert H. Schuller and his wife Arvella. 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. In 1968, the congregation completed the Tower of Hope to provide office and classroom space but continued growth led to the need for a new facility. Schuller envisioned a unique facility with walls made of glass and commissioned architect Philip Johnson. The design was an outgrowth of Johnson's reexamination of German expressionist architect Hermann Finsterlin. Construction of the Crystal Cathedral began in 1977 and was completed in 1980, built at a cost of $18 million. 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. 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" – an alliteration derived from the appearance of the building. In fact, the building was neither made of crystal nor intended to be a true cathedral – that is, a church that houses a bishop's official seat (cathedra) – by that congregation. The congregation added the Prayer Spire in 1990.
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.
The church's board filed for bankruptcy 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.
Purchase by the Diocese of Orange
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. Two weeks later, the diocese increased its initial offer of $50 million to $53.6 million which included a lease-back provision at below market rates for a period of time. On November 17, 2011, a federal judge approved selling the Crystal Cathedral to the Diocese of Orange for $57.5 million.
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." The Vatican approved the use of the building two weeks after the judge's ruling.
The sale to the diocese was finalized on February 3, 2012. Under the terms, 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, a parish the diocese later transferred to the Crystal Cathedral campus. The transfer of the cemetery located on the campus was immediate, and the diocese established offices on the campus soon after. 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.
On June 9, 2012, the diocese announced that the new parish would be known as "Christ Cathedral" when it becomes the diocese's new cathedral, and that Fr. Christopher Smith will be its episcopal vicar. The parish's new patronal name was designated by the Holy See, while suggestions were also taken from the diocese and its members.
Crystal Cathedral Ministries held its final worship service at the building on June 30, 2013. The congregation held its first service at the nearby Shepherd's Grove, the campus of the former St. Callistus Church, on July 7, 2013. The new location is 12921 Lewis Street at Garden Grove Boulevard, one mile south of the Crystal Cathedral building. 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. 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 completed in 2017, at which time its bishop will solemnly dedicate the former Crystal Cathedral building as Christ Cathedral and St. Callistus parish will assume that name.
On September 24, 2014, the diocese released its proposed redesign plans for the building, including extensive changes to the interior intended to make the building more suitable for the "altar-centered" Catholic ritual while retaining some qualities of the original design. Among the changes, the glass walls will be lined with angled "petals" that will reduce the amount of outside light, deemed as being distracting from the altar. At the same time, the petals will include exterior lights to enhance the building's visibility at night, producing an effect described as a "box of stars". The route from the parking lot to the plaza will be lined with crape myrtle trees, symbolizing the "beginning" of holiness in progression to the altar. Along with its restoration, the Hazel Wright Organ is expected to be repainted white so that the altar remains the most prominent element of the room.
The church's 273 rank, five manual pipe organ is the fifth largest in the world. 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 David Geffen Hall), and the Ruffatti organ which had been installed in the church's previous sanctuary. Swann was organist at the Crystal Cathedral from 1982 to 1998. Following the Crystal Cathedral's final Hour of Power in June 2013, the organ was dismantled for a $2 million refurbishing led by Ruffatti; it will be re-installed for the building's planned re-opening as Christ Cathedral in 2017.
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