Christ Cathedral (Crystal Cathedral) – Garden Grove, California - Atlas Obscura

Christ Cathedral (Crystal Cathedral)

Megachurch turned Catholic church comprised of 10,000 glass panes. 


Christ Cathedral, formerly named the Crystal Cathedral, is an all-glass megachurch located in Garden Grove, California. Designed by architect Philip Johnson in 1977 and completed in 1980, the building earns its name for its structure and size.

The church, which was built to cater to a Protestant Christian demographic, once broadcast its services on the popular televangelist show, The Hour of Power. With a weekly audience of 20-million people worldwide, Hour of Power is said to be the world’s most-watched Christian program, and has featured a strange variety of speakers and testimonies.

After a bankruptcy hearing, however, the ministry sold the church to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange County.

Christ Cathedral, which seats roughly 2,700 people, is 12 stories high and comprised of 10,000 rectangular, tempered glass panes. Due to the seismic activity in the area, architect Johnson built the monument to withstand an earthquake of up to 8.0 magnitude. As such, the structure consists of an intricate, lace-like web of 16,000 white trusses to which the glass panes are glued, not bolted.

Though the church is considered to be one of the largest all-glass buildings in the world, it emerged from humble beginnings. In 1955, the Garden Grove Community Church, as the first ministry was called then, was held on the site of a drive-in theater. Reverend Robert A. Schuller, the church’s founder, would lead weekly outdoor services while standing on the roof of the snackbar, speaking to churchgoers seated in their automobiles.

Despite being criticized for performing religious services in a “passion pit,” Schuller continued to speak from his unusual pulpit and beckoned churgoers to “come as you are in the family car.” It was there where he fell in love with the sky, and eventually made plans to build a church made entirely of glass. Thus, while the exterior of Christ Cathedral is coated in a reflective silver paint, the interior roof and walls are transparent, giving off the illusion of being outdoors.

The church also has a bit of a sordid past; in 2004, the church’s former orchestra conductor, Johnnie Carl, committed suicide in the church just moments before a performance of “The Glory of Christmas” was set to begin.

In order to pay off its debt, the church announced in early 2009 that it would have to sell $65 million dollars worth of its property, which also features landmarks designed by prominent architects, Richard and Dion Neutra and Richard Meier. However, this wasn’t enough for the ministry to continue to hold onto its massive church. The Roman Catholics are now working to restore the towering organ with its 16,000 pipes that soar up against the glass. 

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