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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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