St. Andrew Church – Pasadena

An Historic Pasadena Church

P1080079St. Andrew Church – Pasadena

Visited:  July 2016

Thanks in part to a lost necklace and a good deed by yours truly (yes, I’m as shocked as you by this random act of kindness), I was able to glean much more information about an historic Pasadena church that I toured a few days ago (more on that “divine intervention” later).

The interior and exterior architecture of St. Andrew Catholic Church (which will celebrate its 90th birthday next year) combines two famed Rome churches.  Constructed in 1927 (the parish has been around since 1886), the 140-foot tall, Romanesque campanile of St. Andrew replicates the one found at the 8th-century Basilica di Santa Maria in Cosmedin.

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The National Register of Historic Places has recognized St. Andrew for its Romanesque architecture.

P1080072 The total cost of St. Andrew Church was reportedly less than $500,000…and that included the purchase of land.

An unusual aspect of this tower are the three clocks, which were originally wooden.

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Due to warping from rainfall (I guess it used to rain in Southern California), the hands were changed to aluminum.

P1070875St. Andrew’s façade is also Romanesque in style, once again copying Basilica di Santa Maria in Cosmedin.

P1080018Walking into St. Andrew, the foyer has painted ceiling and walls, although the ceiling is much nicer.

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I had read (foreshadowing on how I got some of this info) the interior of St. Andrew “was patterned after Rome’s Basilica di Santa Sabina all’Aventino.”   Upon opening the door to the church, the first thing I noticed were the magnificently colored columns that run down both sides of the sanctuary.

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Twelve columns line each side, and although they look as if they’re made of marble, they are actually “constructed of concrete cast around steel supports.”

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They were made by Italian immigrant artisans in the basement of the church. According to my inside source (more foreshadowing), “the distinct and colorful appearance of the columns comes from a technique called scagliola,” which also sounds like something you might contract in college.  Whatever that process is…it worked….so well, in fact, that these columns have never needed to be restored.

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It was dark in this church, so I have tried to capture the interior as best I could (I’ve been here a few times hoping for better lighting).

As I walked along the north wall of the church, I first saw the Pietà statue, which is unique (according to my source at the bottom of the report) because in this rendition “Mary cradles the head of her fallen son while looking into his eyes.”

P1010224Next stop along the north wall was the All Saints Chapel, with one of Carlo Wostry’s famous murals, “Queen of All the Saints.”  He spent a year on this portrayal of the Madonna seated on a throne with winged angels above her.

P1070900Wostry was an Italian artist who had his first piece of work displayed at the Santa Maria Maggiore church in Rome (it’s an incredibly beautiful church that we were fortunate to visit in 2009).  He moved to the U.S. in 1926, and worked on the murals at St. Andrew for eight years.  According to Wikipedia, “When the totality of his work was completed in 1935, the Los Angeles Times wrote that Wostry’s murals at St. Andrew’s were ‘a revelation to the western art world’ and the best ‘in any church in the two Americas’.” 

Meanwhile, an Italian newspaper expressed disappointment that the works were leaving Italy for installation in a place “where the people have money, but no genuine art appreciation.”   Spoilsports!  I mean, really, what true-blooded American doesn’t appreciate the nuances of the Dogs Playing Poker painting?

poker_sympathyThere are two stained glass windows of note in this chapel.  One shows Jesus holding an orb with Saint Andrew and St. John The Baptist by his side…

P1070968…while the other shows St. Ann, her daughter and a couple of other saints whose names escape me. There were just too many saints marching in for me to recall all of them.

P1070966There are some interesting statues in this chapel. One depicts St. Joseph holding Jesus as a child…

P1070906…St. Jude stands in front of the mural (and no, I did not go into a chorus of “Hey Jude”)…

P1070914…while another is of St. Peter holding the keys to heaven.  When Peter saw me coming, he immediately hid the keys.

P1070904I was told by a parishioner that this statue is of St. Martin. She was so nice and sincere in talking with me, if she’d told me it was of Dean Martin I would have believed her.

P1070907Above all this is a dome featuring St. Michael flanked by two other angels.

P1080064To the side of the main altar is an area that many parishioners told me they just called “The Altar.”

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The main altar and baldachin are made of white marble.  The altar is identical to the sarcophagus of a tomb in Ravenna, Italy (where we will visit in 2017).  The folding altar is covered in gold-leaf.

P1070890Wostry’s fabulous mural portraying the legend of St. Andrew is on display here.  He called the murals painted for St. Andrew Church his “crowning achievement.”

P1070894Wikipedia’s photo is better than mine.

1280px-Altar_mural,_St._Andrew's_Church,_PasadenaOn the left of sacristy is The Blessed Virgin Altar; its altar made of Carrera marble.

P1010218Looking back (and up) toward the entrance of the church, I saw a series of wooden beams. These also replicated Rome’s Basilica di Santa Maria in Cosmedin.

P1070955Running the length of the 120-foot nave are bronze light fixtures.

P1070936Most of the stained-glass windows at the back of the church are just geometric patterns…

P1070887…but there are a few depictions of crosses, holy spirits, grapes…and one window displays the Papal Coat of Arms.

P1070970Walking back up the south side of the church (by now I needed a compass), the first niche I came upon was the Scared Heart Chapel, which possesses a statue of Jesus on top of a pedestal with a young Jesus below him.

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On the sides of the chapel are two stained glass windows of kneeling angels.  I didn’t know if it was legal to go behind the gate to take the photos, but I figured since they were open and I wasn’t struck by lightning, it must be o.k.

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The ceiling in this chapel is also something of note.

P1070946The final chapel was Our Lady Of Guadalupe Chapel.

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I took a last look at one of those great columns with one of Wostry’s Stations of the Cross murals above it.  The Stations of the Cross murals were painted in Trieste, Italy, and then shipped over to Pasadena.

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The first thing I noticed as I exited the church on the Chestnut Street side was a tile mural showing St. Andrew holding a unique cross.

P1070977A few more steps was a shrine to Mary.

P1070979To the north of the church is a nice little piazza…

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…complete with fountains.

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It’s the most modern day project at the church (I shot the photo on the right when I came back in the evening).

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It was at this point I thought my journey had ended, and I was a little disappointed that there was not very much information regarding the interior.  Then, I happened to look down.

At my feet was a very pretty necklace with a Turquoise stone.  Although our anniversary was coming up, I knew even something that beautiful couldn’t beat last year’s present I gave Tracy…a small “Squirrel Picnic Bench” that screws into the tree trunk.  We put an ear of corn on it so the squirrels have a snack when they visit our front yard.  Yes, they don’t call me “Mr. Romantic” for nothing.

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Instead I walked about a block and a half to the church office and turned it in.  While there, I casually mentioned I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t much history on the church. Au contraire.

The very nice young lady behind the bench showed me a coffee table book; Tower of Pasadena: The Art and Architecture of St. Andrew Church by Tri Fritz (David Crane Photography…he has many beautiful photos…much better than mine…of St. Andrew Church in the book).

513EUjFx5NLI was able to gain some more information from the book (some of it quoted above), and I have now learned they found a box containing many copies of this beautiful coffee table book that are on sale at the Church office for $40.  It can also be found on Amazon.

P1070992This is another local gem I had no knowledge of previously…

P1070995…although I have driven by and admired that stunning tower for years that stands predominantly near the 210 freeway.

P1080096The tower is particularly gorgeous in the “Blue Hour” after sunset.

If you want to escape the shops of Old Town while visiting Pasadena, this landmark, located only a few minutes away makes for a great…and beautiful…diversion.

St. Andrew Church
311 North Raymond Avenue (corner of Raymond & Chestnut)
Pasadena, CA 91103
Parking: Street Parking…Free

Pastoral Center (where they have books)
140 Chestnut Street
Pasadena, Ca 91103




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