Faith & Life


How does Christ Cathedral compare to the world’s most famous churches?

By Cathi Douglas     9/17/2019

When Christ Cathedral was dedicated on July 17, it became the nation’s newest cathedral, albeit the only one that formerly housed America’s first megachurch. 

After a $77-million transformation, Christ Cathedral – once known as the late Rev. Robert Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral – is the seat of Bishop Kevin Vann and headquarters of the Diocese of Orange. 

Though dwarfed in comparison to the world’s largest church, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., which measures more than 200,000 square feet, Christ Cathedral nevertheless is one of the world’s largest centers of worship, measuring more than 78,000 square feet. While the Basilica has a capacity of 10,000 worshipers, Christ Cathedral can accommodate 2,250 people. 

Prior to Christ Cathedral’s dedication, the most recently dedicated Catholic cathedral in the U.S. was in the Diocese of Knoxville, where its cathedral was dedicated March 3, 2018, by Bishop Richard Stika. 

While Christ Cathedral’s unique history as a formerly Protestant church sets it apart, some of the world’s most famous and beautiful cathedrals also have interesting histories. 

One of the world’s most-famous churches isn’t yet complete. Sagrada Familia Church in Barcelona, designed by Antoni Gaudi, was begun in 1882. A World Heritage Site, the church remains incomplete 137 years later because of its massive size. Its breathtaking architecture draws millions of tourists annually. 

St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome is known as the world’s second-largest church and is one of the world’s holiest churches. 

Recognized as the world’s most-famous church, St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow is also the world’s most colorful. Completed under the reign of Ivan the Terrible in 1561, the cathedral includes nine different chapels. Running a close second is Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, constructed in the 12th and 13th centuries. 

The sacred art featured in Christ Cathedral, created by a handful of world-renowned artists, is strikingly different than the artwork revered in European cathedrals. But given the new cathedral’s modern architecture, its streamlined, modernistic sacred art is appropriate and noteworthy. 

Sacred art in Christ Cathedral features new work inspired by the life of Jesus Christ, who is depicted through modern iconography. The sacred art is designed to welcome worshippers into the presence of the Lord, introduce the communion of saints and the glory of Our Lady, the Blessed Mother, as well as to accompany us on our journey of faith inspired by the Holy Spirit.  

Pablo Eduardo, a Bolivian-born sculptor known for marrying his Spanish-American heritage with his art, designed the Narthex wall art, 14 Stations of the Cross, and the Festal Doors. Eduardo’s sculptures, rendered in bronze, are recognized for capturing a snapshot of artistic metamorphosis while celebrating rhythm, emotion, texture and tension.  

Other artists were commissioned to create the crux gemmata, the Our Lady of Guadalupe mosaic, the coats of arms mosaics in the Narthex, the baptistry mosaic and the tapestry of the Pantocrator, or Christ Seated in Glory as the Lord of Creation. 

Christ Cathedral’s sacred art may be created in a style far different than Michelangelo’s Pieta or Sistine Chapel, but its simplicity and elegance suit the cathedral’s sleek, modern architecture. In its own way, the sacred art of Christ Cathedral is striking, beautiful, and thought-provoking.