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How a Drive-In Megachurch Became a Catholic Cathedral

Designed by an acclaimed architect for a famous televangelist, a unique church in Southern California has been transformed.
The new Christ Cathedral at dusk.
The new Christ Cathedral at dusk.Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange

When a cathedral has changed denominational hands in the past, it’s usually been the work of the sword. From Hagia Sophia to England’s Canterbury Cathedral to Germany’s Magdeburg Cathedral, these shifts of ownership were never amicable, and often murderous.

By contrast, the conversion of the former Crystal Cathedral complex in Garden Grove, California, from a mainstay of 20th-century Protestant televangelism to a Roman Catholic cathedral was not the result of a second Counter-Reformation, but a relatively seamless commercial exchange, and one in which Robert Schuller—the founder and architectural patron of the church—actively favored the Catholics taking his place (in bankruptcy court, but we’ll get to that later).