Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Our Lady of the Angels

The funeral of Farrah Fawcett has taken place in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels in Los Angeles. (Fawcett was famous as one of the original 'Charlie's Angels' in the 1970s TV series.) The cathedral is the mother church of the Roman Catholic diocese of Los Angeles; and one of the more prominent Marian churches in America. Its patron saint is Saint Vibiana, a female martyr saint, whose relics are also housed there. (Vibiana, interestingly, was the titular saint of the cathedral this new building replaced, after the original sustained damage in the Northridge earthquake of 1994.)

Its postmodern design- by architect Rafael Moneo- has attracted criticism for breaking with the conventions of Catholic aesthethics. The church and visitors' center are predominantly built around obtuse and acute angles; eschewing right angles, for some undisclosed- possibly esoteric- reason. The icons and statuaries are also contemporary in feel: as this rather masculine image of the Blessed Virgin Mary (by artist Robert Graham) indicates.

Clearly, Catholic one-upmanship was responsible for the decision by Cardinal Roger Mahony to exceed the length of the main sanctuary of St Patrick's Cathedral in New York (often regarded as the mother church of American Catholicism) by a single foot; bringing its total to a highly suggestive 333 feet.

The name, interestingly, was approved by the Holy See in the 1940s, for a cathedral which was never built. The pope during that decade was Pius XII, the 260th pontiff from 1939 until 1958. Pius was one of the great Marian popes, invoking papal infallibility to introduce the Fifth Marian Dogma (her Assumption into Heaven, a teaching which leaves open the question of whether Mary died before her assumption, or whether she was 'assumed' still living) in 1950. (On May 1, appropriately.) He also instituted the Feast of Queenship, currently celebrated on August 22.

Some images of the cathedral:


Semele said...

And now Molly Sugden! Ye gods, when will it all end??

Shakes fist at the injustice...

Anonymous said...

Graham's Virgin has a moustache


Ange1swords said...

Interesting to see the Virgin Mary statue on an upright crescent (moon or Venus?) sometimes seen on the Priestess Tarot card.

Reminds me of something I read the other day by Richard Heygate, co-author of the Book of English Magic: "The Christian church made a point not so much of destroying magic as of re-branding it."

Anadæ Effro said...

Rather than masculinising the Blesséd Mother Mary, I was immediately brought to think of the late sculptor Frederick Hart's myriad Washington Cathedral friezes, the style of which were plagiarised for the "living" sculptures in the Satanic thriller The Devil's Advocate, over which quite a legal battle waged … here. Hart eventually settled out of court & the public forgot about the case.

Thanks, Ben, you, too, are one of the all-time best,
Anadæ Effro (•:-)}

Michael said...

The Virgin's symbols seems to be taken from Rev 12:1:

"A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head."

As good a description of Farrah as any.