Crystal Cathedral

Crystal Cathedral, constructed with reflective glass, is a church building for a Christian community, which was originally founded by Robert H. Schuller in 1955. Construction of the building was completed in 1980, and it houses, Hazel Wright Memorial, one of the largest pipe organs on the planet. After bankruptcy in 2010, a federal judge approved the purchase of the building by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange that covered the debt of the Crystal Cathedral Ministries. As the new cathedral in the diocese, the church will become known as Christ Cathedral.



Initially known as the Garden Grove Community Church and located in the community just south of Anaheim, the congregation that became the Crystal Cathedral was established by Rev. Robert H. Schuller and his wife, Arvella, who were in search of a unique venue for services; the choice fell upon the Orange Drive-in Theatre. With the accompaniment of Arvella on a trailer mounted organ, Schuller delivered his weekly services from the rooftop of the theatre’s snack bar. Despite an onslaught of criticism, this unusual congregation gained popularity very quickly, creating the necessity of more space for the community, which led to the construction of a chapel a few miles down the road. Due to the high popularity of the drive-in, Schuller maintained both services for several years, undertaking a selection of programs, including the Hour of Power, reaching across the nation. To accommodate the rapidly growing congregation that was spilling out of the small chapel, a new grand cathedral was commissioned, and to commemorate the open sky of the drive-in, Schuller asked the American architect, Philip Johnson, to create a cathedral made entirely out of glass. Ten years later, in 1990, the Prayer Spire, an adjacent structure, was completed.

Bankruptcy & Sale

In October of 2010, the church filed for bankruptcy due to an excessive amount of debt, amounting to a sum over $50 million. Just over one year following the bankruptcy, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange was granted purchase of the church for $57.5 million; the sale was finalized early in 2012. According to sale terms, the Crystal Cathedral Ministries will lease the campus for three years, while minor renovations of the interior of the structure and the transfer of the local parish onto the campus takes place, and when the church finally becomes the diocese’s cathedral, it will be known as Christ Cathedral.



Commissioned by Schuller, architect Philip Johnson designed the Crystal Cathedral; it would be constructed of glass on all sides and across the roof, the first structure of its kind to be built in an earthquake zone. Instead of being bolted onto the framework of the building, the reflective glass panels, numbering over 10,000, are glued on with a silicone based adhesive.  A variety of precautionary measures, including the adhering techniques, have created a structure that is equipped to resist pressures and damage from an earthquake, measuring in magnitude up to 8.0. Amounting to $18 million in cost, construction began in 1977 and was completed 1980 with space to accommodate 2,738 parishioners.

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