When I hear the word church, my mind goes to brick facades, Gothic spires and grimacing gargoyles.

In Oakland, California, a controversial new house of worship has gone against that ancient tradition.

More reminiscent of Gehri than Gaudi, the Cathedral of Christ the Light is covered by a grid of sleek metallic curves, wood and glass.

Upon entering, a digital Jesus invites devotees to throw away their notions of church and pray in something truly unique, modern and special.

The Cathedral of Christ the Light

I love architecture that defies tradition and takes risks; which is exactly what the Cathedral of Christ the Light does.


The Omega Window is sometimes referred to as the Christ JumboTron Since its inception, the cathedral has had its share of criticism: both for misusing the diocese’s budget and for featuring a non-traditionalist design.

However, when the church finally opened in 2008, critics were silenced by its overwhelmingly positive response.


According to the Institute for Sacred Architecture:

‘The press’s reception has been a warm one, describing the finished structure as “ethereal,” “awe-inspiring,” and “a quiet retreat.”’


Meanwhile, Bishop Allen Vigneron publicly said:

“Beauty is one of the principle qualities of God’s own being. The cathedral is a testament that there’s a reason to hope.”


Exploring the Mausoleum

Should you want to spend eternity at the Cathedral of Christ the Light, the basement mausoleum houses 2,700 crypts and urn plots.

Twelve of these crypts are reserved for the bishops of Oakland. The others can be reserved by members of the diocese at a relatively reasonable rate.

Even if you’re not looking for a permanent resting place, the mausoleum is still a beautiful and tranquil place to explore, reflect, sit and pray.


Interesting Cathedral Trivia and Tidbits

  • A fisheye photograph of the interior of Cathedral of Christ of the Light in Oakland, CA The cathedral is 12 stories tall.
  • More than 1,000 sheets of glass cover a wooden frame made of Douglas fir trees.
  • The cathedral’s shape was inspired by the Vesica Piscis fish – an ancient symbol of Christianity.
  • According to architect Craig Hartman, “the design allows light to filter in, reminiscent of how light filters through a canopy of tall redwood trees in a wooded glade.”
  • The cathedral is a replacement for the Cathedral of Saint Francis de Sales; which was destroyed during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.
  • Like most new structures in California, the cathedral is built with protective measures against future earthquakes.
  • A small garden is intended to serve as a place of healing for survivors of clergy sexual abuse.
  • The cathedral cost roughly $175 million to build.
  • Photography is permitted at all times: except during mass. I learned this first hand.
  • The Cathedral of Christ the Light serves more than 530,000 devotees.