September 05, 2021

Photo Essay: A Sanctioned Visit Into the Off-Limits Sanctuary of Forest Lawn's Great Mausoleum

I recently posted about the incredible stained glass collection of Forest Lawn Memorial Park's Glendale location—but the truth is, I was really only scratching the surface. 

Gladiola Archway

Many of its most significant stained glass windows are inside the Great Mausoleum—which celebrated its centennial in 2020 and deserves a post entirely dedicated to it. 

Note that interior photos are generally not allowed inside the Great Mausoleum. The following photos were taken with permission of our tour guide on condition that they wouldn't be of any particular grave/interment. 

The crown jewel of Forest Lawn Glendale's stained glass collection is, of course, its version of "The Last Supper" by Leonardo da Vinci—which sprawls 30 feet in length and 15 feet in height. The window—the work of Italian craftswoman Rosa Moretti—is probably the most popular tourist attraction in the Mausoleum, whose "light show" and audio tour can be experienced with the push of a button at the security stand as you walk in. 

But there's so much more to the Great Mausoleum—including the Poets' Windows in the Poets' Corridor of the Dahlia Terrace (one of 11 such flower-named terraces), just one flight down. Each of the 13 windows is accompanied by a verse of poetry by American and English poets and lyricists like James Whitcomb Riley (whose "Old Sweetheart of Mine" is depicted left, above) and more.


Forest Lawn reports that 12 of them (including "Golden Legend" inspired by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, left, above) were created in 1926 by Western Decorative Glass in Oakland, CA—though I can't seem to find out anything about that studio on my own. 

They all were commissioned by "The Builder" himself—Forest Lawn's own founder, Hubert Eaton. 

You can see more about The Poets' Windows in the video by Forest Lawn, above. 

Moving upstairs, above the Memorial Court of Honor where "The Last Supper" is located, there's "The Christmas Window," completed in the late 1930s in what's now considered the Norman Rockwell period (though the image is not by Rockwell himself). It contains the biblical verse from 1 John 3:18-22—"My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth"—as a shadowy figure of Christ looms in blue from above. 

At the end of one of the hallways of the Mausoleum's Holly Terrace, located high enough to meet the ceiling, is a stained-glass version of Raphael's painting "Madonna of the Chair" (Madonna della seggiola), created by Heinigke and Smith of Michigan (in business 1890-1950s). 

Also in the Holly Terrace, past the Columbarium of Inspiration, are several famous burials. 

Many of them, like Michael Jackson's curtained-off plot from his 2009 entombment, are off-limits. But I care less about dead celebrities and more about colorful art glass.

One pair of windows in the Sanctuary of the Sacrament depicts a story of Cain and Abel from the Old Testament (Genesis, Chapter 4) and Mark 1:11 from the New Testament ("Thou art my beloved son") on the left and, on the right, Matthew 19:14-15 ("Suffer little children to come unto me"..."and he laid his hands on them").

In the Sanctuary of Valor, one diptych window eschews religion and instead draws inspiration from King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table...

...while others elsewhere evoke the Ten Commandments, Hebrew text...

...and of course saints...


...psalms (including specifically Psalms 37:5, above)...

...and proverbs (specifically Proverbs 12:28, above).

Anyone could choose to honor their loved ones (or, conceivably, themselves) with any of the above, as was the case of Adelaide Belle (Good) Bowman in the Mausoleum's Sanctuary of Serenity, also in the Holly Terrace. Both she and her husband Samuel are buried by their own custom stained glass window.

In the Mausoleum's Gladiola Archway (pictured at the top of this post, the part you can actually drive under), there's the quartet of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, known collectively as the "Old Testament Prophets." 

This multi-window installation is one of Judson Studios' many contributions to Forest Lawn...

...this one coming on the later side of history, in 1979. 

In the corner underneath where the soft lead came is buckling under the weight of the glass is the Griffin logo that also adorns the mosaic gateway to Judson Studios' historic facility in Highland Park/Garvanza

In many ways, its disrepair makes it one of the highlights of this area of the Mausoleum (though it reportedly will be repaired/restored at some point). 

I'd been to the Forest Lawn Great Mausoleum many times, but I'd never made it past The Last Supper. I didn't even know you could go anywhere past that. 

And it's true, security is very tight there. 

But if you're more interested in its art—not just the stained glass, but also its statuary—than its celebrity inhabitants, you can hop on a historic tour led by a Forest Lawn docent to learn all about it. 

Thanks to the Historical Society of Crescenta Valley for arranging the tour I attended (during which photos were allowed to be taken by special permission).


  1. You did a great job capturing the colors of all the glass! Very cool to see.

  2. I went to the great M in the 80s. They were strict then, had a person there at entrance. But went in, got pics of Harlow, Gable, Lombard etc. Went 3 or 4 flights down to see WC Fields grave. Shame they're not allowing anyone in there. Makes no sense.