Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Los Angeles — Greek City Times

The Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Los Angeles was built in 1952, in what was then the Hellenic section of downtown Los Angeles, California. This Greek Orthodox church is the result of what many call a “Hollywood success story”.

Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral in LA

We take a look at this magnificent cathedral, which is also the local Greek Orthodox church for many Greek American Hollywood stars.

When Charles Skouras and his brothers, Spyros and George, were still trying to make it in Hollywood, Charles made a vow to God that he would build the most majestic cathedral if God granted him success in show business. He became leader of Fox West Coast and kept his word by becoming the main benefactor for the construction of the Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Church in Los Angeles.

Holy Wisdom of God
Holy Wisdom of God

Saint Sophia Cathedral represents the “Holy Wisdom of God” and is modeled after Saint Sophia of Constantinople, the great and ancient church of Eastern Christendom, but offers a number of unique departures.

Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral in LA
Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral in LA

Skouras, architect Gus Kalionzes and iconographer/artist William Chavalas did not follow the sometimes rigid Byzantine tradition closely. The architecture as a whole is rather an evocation of the great Byzantine spirit and reflects the influences of the Hellenistic and Byzantine periods. The artist has conducted extensive research on world churches through the ages. He did not copy any style but kept the basic traditions linked to the Christian faith.

Church of the Holy Wisdom of God Los Angelos
Holy Wisdom of God Los Angelos

When approaching the cathedral from the street, it is easy to notice that the structure of the exterior has been designed in very simple yet proportionate lines expressing the art and architecture of the Byzantine tradition.

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The only decorative work installed in relief is at the main entrance and at the north and south exits. The relief work consists of a massive scrollwork, leaf and grape theme, which is a universal Christian symbol pointing to the Holy Eucharist. A large rose-patterned multi-colored glass window adorns the upper part of the embossed areas.

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The main entrance relief area also contains two peacocks drinking from a fountain, representing an ancient symbol of eternal life. The hand carved solid oak doors at the main north and south entrances are carved in a 13th century Byzantine style. The restoration of the doors was completed recently.

The interior of the cathedral, as with any Orthodox church, is divided into three areas: the narthex, the nave and the sanctuary. The Narthex is the first area and is in a lobby style design.

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The walls are covered in marble from floor to ceiling and the floor is in antique verdi marble. There are two onyx shrines, each framing a hand-carved silver icon. The one on the right represents the Queen of Heaven, the Virgin Mary and the child Jesus. On the left is the artist’s conception of the dedication, or name, of the cathedral which in this case, as mentioned, represents the “Holy Wisdom of God”.

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Many celebrities have been patrons of the Church and over the past decades including George Chakiris, the late Telly Savalas, Rita Wilson and her husband Tom Hanks (who normally attend Easter services here) Maria Menounos, Arianna Huffington, Costas Mandylor and Nia Vardalos.

Key words:
1952, Byzantine Tradition, Greek Americans, Greek Americans, Greek Churches, Greek Churches of the World, Greek Orthodox, Gus Kalionzes, Holy Wisdom of God, Los Angeles, Hagia Sophia, Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Los Angeles, Sophia of Constantinople , Tom Hanks, William Chavalas

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