Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral in LA

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

GCT’s Victoria Giannakis was recently in Los Angeles and takes us through 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 get ahead in Hollywood, Charles made a vow to God that he would build the most majestic cathedral if God would grant him success in show business. He became head of Fox West Coast, and kept his word by becoming the major benefactor building the Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Church in Los Angeles.

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

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Skouras, architect Gus Kalionzes and iconographer/artist William Chavalas did not closely follow the sometimes rigid Byzantine tradition. The architecture in its entirety is rather an evocation of the great Byzantine spirit and reflects the influences of both the Hellenistic and Byzantine periods. The artist conducted extensive research on churches of the world throughout the ages. He did not copy any one style, but kept the basic traditions connected with the Christian faith.

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As the Cathedral is approached from the street, it is readily observed that the structure of the exterior has been designed in very simple but proportionate lines expressing the art and architecture of Byzantine tradition.

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The only decorative artwork installed in relief is at the main entrance and at the north and south exits. The relief work consists of a massive scroll design, of a leaf and grape theme, that is a universal Christian symbol pointing to the EuchariSaint. A large rose patterned window of multi-coloured glass adorns the upper portion of the relief 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 solid oak hand-carved doors of the main, north and south entrances are carved in a Byzantine style thirteenth century pattern. Restoration of the doors was recently completed.

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 sided from floor to ceiling in marble and the floor is antique verdi marble. There are two shrines made of onyx, each framing an icon of hand-carved silver. The one on the right depicts the Queen of Heaven, the Virgin Mary and Christ-child. 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 are patrons of the Church and throughout the last few decades, include George Chakiris, the late Telly Savalas, Rita Wilson and husband Tom Hanks (who normally attend Easter services here) Maria Menounos, Arianna Huffington, Costas Mandylor and Nia Vardalos.

*Images by Victoria Giannakis 

Victoria Giannakis

Victoria is a world traveller, and photographer, who spends at least half the year out of Australia. She’s been to all continents in the world except Antarctica. Her extensive travels to India, South America, Africa, Europe & Asia has given her experience in multiple cultures, places, people & has been accepted into families, religious rituals & social events as a local, with many stories to tell. Perhaps her love of people & travels started with her studies in Sociology & Anthroplogy (BA) Arts at Monash University & a Masters of Mkt (Dir Mkt) at Monash. Her ‘go get’ it attitude & enthusiasm is sure to encourage many people to share with her their stories for GCT. victoriagiannakis.com

3 Comments
  1. Ειμαςτε πολλη τιχερι στι ζωημας που μας αξιοσε ο θεός και ειρθαμε απο Αυστραλία. Και είδαμε την εκκλιςια τις Αγίας Σοφίας μάθαμε όλοι την ιστορία τις ειναι μια πανέμορφη έκκλισια. Και αξίζουν πολλα ΣΥΝΧΑΡΤΙΡΙΑ σε ολους τους Έλληνες Αμερικής για αυτο το μεγάλο έργο που κάνανε Μια απο τις ωραιότερα εκλισιεσπου εχωμε δή στο κόσμο κτισμένο με τόση ΑΦΑΠΗ

  2. Fantastic photos! You can see the theatrical influences of the decor; in particular the theatrical interior decor reflective on the ceiling, and interestingly enough it actual works well with what we associate with the overall design of an Orthodox church. The iconography is a break from traditional Byzantine style and has more of a 3d realistic look, somewhat more common in Orthodox churches built in the late 1800s to the early 1900s both in Greece and in Russia.

  3. St. Sophia is on my bucket list to visit and attend services with the wonderful and
    Loving Father John. I live on the East Coast but listen to Father John’s liturgy every Sunday. Thank you for the history of The Church and for the beautiful photos of this extraordinary edifice.

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