With its stunning architecture and rich history, the Christ Cathedral campus is undoubtedly one of the most iconic cathedrals in America, and certainly one of the most unique.
To capture the majesty and heritage of the landmark property, the Office of Communications recently produced a comprehensive virtual tour of the entire cathedral campus, from its plaza grounds to the Tower of Hope.
The tour allows users using a computer (desktop or laptop), cell phone or virtual-reality headset to digitally walk through the sprawling 34-acre campus and its major buildings. And by “walking,” it means they click through the digital spaces within dozens of 360-degree images.
Virtual tours are becoming increasingly common for famous places, from the Louvre in Paris to the Great Wall of China. They are also popular in real estate listings. The tours allow users access to locations that resemble physically being there, but from the comfort of wherever they have a fast internet connection.
“I got the idea to make Christ Cathedral’s virtual tour after seeing one made for the White House,” said Bradley Zint, the Diocese’s assistant director of communications who spearheaded the effort. “So I jokingly said, ‘If the White House has one, why can’t Christ Cathedral?’”
Aided by Jason Tomas, creative director of HowJaySay Studios, photography for the virtual tour took place over several days this past summer. The 360-degree shots were captured using a special camera that sits atop a stick. The spaces needed to be empty of people and the lighting conditions just right to capture the awe-inspiring scenery.
Though other famous churches in the world have virtual tours, what makes Christ Cathedral’s unique is how comprehensively it captures all the major sites of the large property: Christ Cathedral, the Tower of Hope, the Chapel in the Sky, the Arboretum, the Great Plaza, Crean Tower and Cultural Center.
It’s also notable for its priceless tour guide: the Very Rev. Christopher Smith, rector and episcopal vicar of the cathedral since 2012, when the campus was purchased by the Diocese of Orange as its
new cathedral and headquarters.
As users embark on the tour, they will also see video icons. Clicking an icon opens up a video of Fr. Christopher explaining a particular aspect of the campus’ history, beginning with its founding as the Crystal Cathedral under the Rev. Robert Schuller through its transformation as a Catholic metropolis of worship under the Diocese of Orange’s stewardship
The tour contains more than 30 videos that highlight things like buildings, chapels and sacred artwork.
“I was very happy to contribute and provide a context for the Christ Cathedral virtual tour,” said Fr. Christopher. “My involvement in much of the development of the campus since its acquisition by the
Diocese of Orange has provided me with an insight into its history and legacy.”
“There is so much to know about the campus, from its artwork to its architecture, that any parishioner — even Diocese employees — can learn something about the campus from watching Fr. Christopher’s videos,” added Zint.
Interesting facts Fr. Christopher shares in the videos include: how light beams regularly shrine onto the floor of Christ Cathedral and create crosses, a phenomenon that was actually a happy accident; how the Chapel in the Sky closely resembles a smaller version of the Arboretum, both of which were designed by Richard Neutra; and how the Arboretum still has the small balcony Rev. Schuller famously preached from that overlooks the parking lot.
In addition to Fr. Christopher’s engaging narration, the videos feature stunning photography taken on the campus, some of which have never been published before.
Future expansions of the Christ Cathedral virtual tour will include the newly expanded Cathedral Memorial Gardens cemetery grounds and the Our Lady of La Vang Shrine.
The Christ Cathedral virtual tour is available by visiting www.rcbo.org/ virtualtour