February 24, 2020

Photo Essay: The Cloistered Nuns of Hollywood and Their Stately Home (Closed—Updated for 2024)

[Last updated 1/1/24 8:34 PM PT—The gift shop, which remained open through the end of 2023, is now permanently closed. The status of the property is still TBA.]

[Updated 8/23/22 9:14 PM PT—The last of the Dominican nuns have left the monastery and the Dominican Order has suppressed, or deactivated, it. A lawyer representing the monastery told the Los Angeles Times in June that there were no plans to sell and that the chapel and gift shop would stay open. But a recent Esotouric visit says otherwise.]

LA is the City of Angels—a detail that can be easy to forget sometimes.

But there’s a halo hooked onto the devil horns of this flawed, misunderstood, and sometimes bacchanalian metropolis.

LA, in fact, can be downright angelic.

circa 2015

A little off the beaten path—in the angelic realm, anyway—are the cloistered Dominican Contemplative Nuns of The Monastery of the Angels.

As part of their monastic life, the nuns have withdrawn from the world to devote their lives to praying, studying, and performing daily morning mass.

circa 2015

In 1934, the nuns moved from Downtown Los Angeles to Beachwood Canyon, Hollywood...

circa 2015

...and in 1948, moved into a monastery building designed by famed architect Wallace Neff in the Spanish Mediterranean style.

circa 2015

The nearly 3.8-acre parcel was once part of the now-demolished mansion estate of copper magnate Joseph Giroux.

circa 2015

It's tucked away on a quiet street just north of Franklin Avenue, spared from the throngs of tourists looking for the Hollywood Sign.

In its heyday, it provided a chic getaway for god-fearing stars and starlets to retreat from the Babylonian evils of Tinseltown and into prayer—including actress Jane Wyman, who donated a sculpture of Mother Mary that still stands in the courtyard today.

Since the 1950s, the nuns have gotten to indulge in one hobby—making treats such as peanut brittle, hand-dipped chocolates, and, since 1965, pumpkin bread.

circa 2015

The sale of these confections—made by the nuns’ own heavenly hands—helps keep the lights on at the monastery, so it feels good to load up on their goods when you visit the sliver of the monastery's sprawling campus that's open to the public.

In addition to the gift shop, there's a chapel open for quiet contemplation...

...and even more statuary sprinkled throughout the courtyard (including a depiction of St. Martin de Porres, a 16th-century illegitimate child of Spanish nobility and a Panamanian freed slave who's widely revered by the Dominican order.

In the walled garden, the Stations of the Cross provide the opportunity to trace the final path of Jesus prior to his crucifixion...

...alongside beautiful relief sculptures mounted on the curved stone wall.

With Lent starting next week and Easter just about seven weeks away, it's the perfect time to visit the Monastery of the Angels...

...even just to check out a historic site in LA that not too many people know about...

...and even fewer visit any time of the year besides Christmas...

...which is the most popular season for their famed pumpkin bread.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: The Monastic Life at St. Andrew's Abbey
Photo Essay: The Way of Sorrows
Photo Essay: Monastery of the Caves (Києво-Печерська лавра)
Photo Essay: Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels (Updated for 2018)

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