History and Heritage

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Rev. Neal Dodd

The Church of St. Mary of the Angels was founded by The Reverend Neal Dodd 1918. The church started as a Mission and opened on February 3rd, 1918 at 1724 North Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles, California.

On December 15th, 1918 Father Dodd and his congregation moved into a new building at 1743 North New Hampshire Avenue.  Even at that time Father Dodd and Carleton M. Winslow, Architect dreamed of a larger church edifice and Mr. Winslow drew up a sketch and preliminary plans.

It was not, however, until twelve years later that a donor very kindly gave the money to purchase the site of the present church at 4510 Finley Avenue, Hollywood, California.  Mr. Winslow revised his original plans but the design of St. Mary of the Angels church remains today much as he conceived it in the beginning.

On March 2nd, 1930 the cornerstone was laid and the church was opened May 18th, 1930.  Two years later, on July 10th, 1932 it was consecrated by the Rt. Rev. William Bertrand Stevens, D.D., Bishop of Los Angeles in a beautiful and impressive ceremony.

The design of the Church of St. Mary of the Angels is simple and it is one of the most beautiful examples in Southern California of an architecture that is typical of our State.  This style of architecture has evolved from the sound foundations laid by the Franciscans when they built their Missions in Southern California over 165 years ago. If it seems reminiscent of traditional styles it must be remembered that the chief fundamental of architectural design has been the same through the ages; good proportion, governed by the materials used in its construction

Our building was designated Historic Cultural Monument No. 136 of the City of Los Angeles in 1971 and the parish has been officially recognized several times by the Governor of California for its place in the Hollywood community.

Centered on the east wall reredos of St. Mary of the Angels Church is Andrea Della Robbia’s “Annunciation” that was given to the church by the Letts Estate.  In the earlier church, this beautiful work of art formed the altar piece.  The original “Annunciation” is in Laverna Monastery in Italy.

In the interior of the Church, to the right of the Sanctuary, is Della Robbia’s statue of St. Francis in the Church of St. Mary of the Angels in Assisi, Italy.  On the left is the statue of St. John the Evangelist.

“And there appeared a great wonder in Heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars”.   Revelation 12:1

The Church of St. Mary of the Angels and the City of Los Angeles were both named after the Church of St. Mary of the Angels of the Porziuncola, at Assisi, Italy.  Under the great dome of this church stands the little chapel restored by St. Francis of Assisi.  The chapel dates back to the 13th century

In 358 AD, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, exiled from his See, took refuge in the little chapel.  He found it in ruins, and after re-building it, dedicated it to Saint Mary of Jephosaphat.  In later years, the peasants living in the region believed they heard angels singing in the grove where it stood and named the chapel “St. Mary of the Angels”.

In 500 AD, St. Benedict rebuilt a part of the chapel.  He begged from the owner of the land on which it stood and named the place “St. Mary of the Angels of the Portiuncula (Little Portion)”.

At the time of St. Francis of Assisi, the chapel was again in ruins and he restored it in 1208.  It was here too that he founded the Franciscan Order in 1210.

August 2nd is the Feast Day of Our Lady of the Angels, a day of particular significance to the followers of St. Francis.  On this same date in the year 1769, an expedition of Franciscan Missionaries camped in the valley where the city of Los Angeles now stands to celebrate the Feast Day of Our Lady of the Angels.  In honor of this day, they named the valley “Nuestra Senora de Los Angeles de Portiuncula”.

Twelve years later on September 7, 1781, a town was founded and named El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora, Santa Maria, la Reina de Los Angeles.  In time, this town became known as and was customarily called, “La Ciudad de Los Angeles” or “The City of the Angels”.

In 1918, when Father Dodd founded his Mission on Vermont Avenue, he selected the name “St. Mary of the Angels”.

And, so we find our altar piece, our church and our city all named after an ancient chapel in Assisi, Italy.

Saint Mary of the Angeles