An Historic Pasadena Church
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.
The National Register of Historic Places has recognized St. Andrew for its Romanesque architecture.
An unusual aspect of this tower are the three clocks, which were originally wooden.
Due to warping from rainfall (I guess it used to rain in Southern California), the hands were changed to aluminum.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
Next 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.
Wostry 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?
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.
Walking 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.
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.
The ceiling in this chapel is also something of note.
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.
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.
…complete with fountains.
It’s the most modern day project at the church (I shot the photo on the right when I came back in the evening).
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.
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).
I 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.
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