May 23, 2015

Photo Essay: St. Vincent de Paul, West Adams

I've been really fascinated with the West Adams neighborhood of Los Angeles...

circa 2022

...where incredible homes and buildings just jump out at you from every corner.

While scouting out the neighborhood, I parked my car in front of this majestic structure, which I presumed was a church, though it could've been a theater or a municipal building.

Having no idea what denomination it was (as these things sometimes change over time from a building's original construction), I decided to try to go in. After all, I've felt pretty welcome at the various houses of worship I've wandered into in California so far.

There were signs that it was probably Catholic – the crosses, the statue inscribed "Holy Mary Mother of God" –

...but on this bleak day, this church didn't feel exultant. It was downright gothic.

The lampposts had claws.

Intricate carvings bathed the entryways in shadows.

Sneering faces peered out...

...while other figures stood guard.

One of the faces looked as though it was about to speak to me.

I didn't know what kind of portal I would be entering...

...but I walked through the door of what turned out to be St. Vincent de Paul Roman Catholic Church.

It isn't quite like the Catholic churches I grew up attending: its painted ceilings in the vestibule were reminiscent of those in a Masonic hall...

...and it probably felt like a theater because it was designed by the same architect responsible for the Million Dollar, Albert C. Martin Sr. (whose list of credits also includes City Hall).

The Stations of the Cross literally sparkle in a beautiful array of mosaic tile...

...lending a certain glamour to a depiction of a rather dismal series of events.

Donation boxes are scattered along the exterior walls to collect alms for the poor...

...while Mary shows off a little extra bit of opulence.

Awash in the scent of burning incense, there are intriguing dioramas...

...and more collection boxes in which to make an offering.

Of course, no prayer or offering is ever free.

Fortunately, they're for sale in a vending machine.

There was a darkness inside the church, even when they switched the lights on...

...the stained glass windows too small to let much light in...

...and the weather outside too dreary to provide much light.

But after unsuccessfully trying to sneak into the choir loft to have a better look at the organ, I stepped outside...

...where the sun had finally broken through...

...illuminating every shadow that had been cast before...

...and evoking joyousness and jubilation even in a time of great sadness.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Blessings for the Poor in Spirit
Photo Essay: The Million Dollar, Sid Grauman's First Movie House
Photo Essay: City Hall at Sunset
Photo Essay: Wilshire May Company Building, Miracle Mile

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