Let me start by admitting that last Sunday I did something very...hmm, shall I say...unusual? It's not just that I went to church, but that in one afternoon I went to three churches. And I must confess that I went there not to pray or to hear a sermon, but just for the pleasure of it. It all started rather innocently, with an article in Saturday's LA Times about a concert at the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, known for its 20,000 pipe organ - perhaps the largest musical instrument existing in any church in the world today. I had been there before and always enjoyed its Gothic Revival architecture, its impressive stained glass windows, and the amazing sound emanating from the organ pipes placed seemingly everywhere you look.
Initially I had other plans for that Sunday afternoon, but - call it divine intervention - that morning, out of the blue, comes an invitation to an art exhibition at the Pilgrim School, on the campus of this very same First Congregational Church. How could I say no to that? After all, I had heard so much about the outstanding private collection of Joan and Jack Quinn, and here, for one weekend only, several dozen paintings and sculptures from their collection were being shown informally in classrooms of the school's new Fine Arts Center.
I called my sister to ask if she wanted to join me, and she was game, but before going to the exhibition and the concert, we decided to look for a nice place to have lunch. Driving along Wilshire Boulevard toward downtown, we passed St. Basil's Catholic Church, with its imposing and intimidating architecture, so typical of the 1960s. On an impulse, we got out of the car and went inside. It was something I'd always wanted to do, knowing that its signature stained glass windows were designed by the famous Los Angeles artist Claire Falkenstein. The afternoon service had just started, so as discreetly as possible, we walked around marveling at the church interior.
Back at the car, I asked my sister if she wanted to have lunch in a nearby Greek café next to St. Sophia, the huge Greek Orthodox Cathedral which has a special place in our hearts, considering that Sophia was the name of our mother.
So before going to lunch, we stepped into the gilded marble interior of the cathedral, with its sprawling frescoes and massive crystal chandeliers. It felt like a lavish set design for a Metropolitan Opera production.
I'll spare you the details of our tasty lunch, but trust me, with the exhibition and concert that we attended later that afternoon at the First Congregational Church, the whole day turned out to be simply divine: we visited three churches, listened to music, looked at art, and ate well. Can you ask for anything more?
So now let me ask you, what is your favorite house of worship here in LA - one that you especially like for its art, architecture, and interior design? Email me your suggestions, along with photos. I'll put on our website the most interesting images, and then we all can participate in choosing LA's top three houses of worship, based on their architectural and artistic merits. Are you in?
Banner image: Interior of St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Los Angeles