The Crystal Cathedral was a pure show biz, from its movie star guest speakers to its artful use of the power of TV. The largest glass building in the world, The Cathedral was built by the Rev. Robert Schuller.
The building, designed by architect Philip Johnson, was completed in 1981 and seats 2,736 people. Schuller started out in 1955, as pastor of California’s first “drive-in” church, in Garden Grove. It was actually situated in an old drive-in movie theatre, Schuller preached from the roof of the concession stand. After significant success on the airwaves, Rev. Schuller opened the Crystal Cathedral in 1980. Each week, the Sunday services at The Crystal Cathedral were broadcast live across the nation as “The Hour of Power,” and they often featured Hollywood stars. The Crystal Cathedral’s pipe organ with 16,000 pipes is among the five largest pipe organs in the world, the Hour of Power Choir with 100-plus voices is also an interesting feature and the electric fountain/stream that runs down the middle of the central aisle is also worth mentioning. The mammoth church is indeed impressive, made almost entirely of glass and a spider web framework of white steel, the star-shaped “cathedral” is something extra ordinary. Over 400 feet long and 200 feet across, raising some 12 stories above the ground, with an angular, mirror-like exterior, its transparent, sun-lit interior features a giant television screen, and an altar of rich marble. The Crystal Cathedral can accommodate about 3,000 worshipers for Sunday services. Giant, sliding glass doors on the side of the church allow even more worshipers to watch the services from their cars in the parking lot. The new glass tower was added in 1990, is a stunning structure in its own right; at the tower’s base you will find a tiny, dome-shaped chapel housing an uncommon, cross-shaped crystal. Having over 12,000 glass panes and a sparkling, modern-day bell tower, The Crystal Cathedral is an Orange County landmark visible for miles around.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange negotiated a pretty sweet deal when it purchased the iconic Crystal Cathedral, the longtime pulpit of the Rev. Robert H. Schuller and backdrop to his popular “Hour of Power” television broadcasts. Not only did Catholics get a national landmark designed by the renowned architect Philip Johnson, but Bishop Tod D. Brown wasn’t even the highest bidder: Schuller and the board of the proudly Protestant mega church, opted to take Brown’s $57.5 million offer over a $59 million pitch from Chapman University because the bishop would keep the campus as a place of worship.