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California's Most Beautiful Churches

California Churches With the Most Beautiful Architecture

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This list is subjective, based on the writer's personal taste and also limited to churches actually visited. We are always happy to entertain nominations for new additions to the list.

Crystal Cathedral, Garden Grove

A soaring glass construction that lets in the Southern California light, designed by Philip Johnson. Other famous architects who have designed buildings on the grounds include Richard Neutra and Richard Meier. Tours are given daily, except Sunday.

Lady of Angels, Los Angeles

© 2007 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission
It's a bit stodgy-looking from outside, but the interior evokes a worshipful atmosphere in a setting as beautiful as any soaring, Gothic cathedral ever did. It was designed by Spanish architect Professor Jose Rafael Moneo. Buy a guidebook in the gift shop for a self-guided tour, or take one of the guided tours offered daily. See their schedule at the cathedral website.

Grace Cathedral, San Francisco

© 2009 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.
San Francisco's most beautiful church sits atop Nob Hill. The Doors of Paradise at the entrance are made from the same mold as those of the baptistry at the Florence Cathedral, the walls are covered with frescoes of California history and they have two beautiful labyrinths.

Sea Ranch Chapel

© 2007 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.
It's tiny and you might drive right by if I didn't tell you to stop, but this little creation by San Diego artist and architect James T. Hubbell has received numerous awards, including a "Special Award for Excellence in Craftsmanship" from the California Council of the American Institute of Architects.

You'll find the chapel 110 miles north of San Francisco on CA Hwy 1 at Sonoma County mile 55.5. It's open to visitors every day until dark.

Wayfarer's Chapel, Los Angeles

© 2009 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.
Another glass construction in Southern California, designed by Lloyd Wright (son of Frank Lloyd Wright), Wayfarer's sits in a grove of pine trees that make it feel like the middle of a forest. It's open most days, but on weekends, you may find a wedding going on inside.

Santa Barbara Mission

© 2001 Betsy Malloy
Of all the Spanish missions in California, Santa Barbara is the most beautiful one still standing, with a classically-styled front that tweaks the imagination and leaves you wondering how the Fathers and their neophytes managed to build it.

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