Monday, August 9, 2010

A Church with Sheets Mosaics

A two-fer. When I started Mosaic Mondays I realized that most posts would be on either Millard Sheets or churches, and today we have both.

Precious Blood Catholic Church on Occidental near 4th Street was built in 1926. In 1951, Wallace Neff oversaw a remodel and contracted with Millard Sheets for the mosaics surrounding the altar. That's about all I know, and I thank Marcello Vavala of the Los Angeles Conservancy for telling me about this beautiful site.

The gold is dazzling and overwhelming. I could not get a decent picture from the back of the church--it was a bit like trying to photograph the sun. At another time, with different lighting, a better photo is surely possible.

When I visited just after the 4th of July weekend, a film crew from Sons of Anarchy was taping dark, heavy trashbag plastic over the stained glass windows in preparation for shooting. So the church and mosaic may soon make a TV appearance.

While the angels are "evocative of an earlier era," as Marcello put it, the lower, earthbound artwork is very much Sheets' style of painting.

I'm kind of amazed that Wikipedia, the Catholic Directory, and even an LA Times article on Precious Blood Catholic Church never mention the incredible artistry of this church. The sites call the church Italian Romanesque in style and state that it has three rose windows.  Well, it does and rose windows are nothing to sneeze at, but for heaven sakes...if you walked into a vault lined with gold and someone asked you what it was like, would you talk about the pretty windows outside the vault?

The only place that notes this church's artistic heritage officially are the folks who produced the Angel's Walk LA pamphlet on the Wilshire Center, which includes a paragraph about Precious Blood Church.

As for this shot to the right, I really screwed around with the contrast, etc, to try and get some details of the angels in. Didn't result in the payoff I'd hoped for...

Please do yourself a favor when you're in the neighborhood--the edge of Silver Lake--and drop into the church yourself. Outside and in, it's covered with mosaics: the Stations of the Cross, the Seven Sacraments, etc. But it's Millard Sheets' earth and angels around the altar that truly make this sanctuary not just religious, but transcendent.


Anonymous said...

I had completely forgotten about this mosaic by my Father, Millard Sheets. I did com across the original sketches fot the murals but didn't put the two together. I look forward to visiting the church when in LA again. I heve created a Millard Sheets resource web site and just added a link for the church to it. Check it out.

Best, Tony Sheets

Patti said...

I went to Precious Blood Catholic School at the other end of this block. I always loved the golden color and the marble altar. I hurt many a knee saying my hail mary's after confession there! Such a beauty.