The Angels of Los Angeles

“Bronze is a threshold onto other dimensions.”


The Great Golden Angels of the Main Altar and the Los Angeles Angel Frieze form the heart of the landmark $200 million Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels located in Los Angeles’s Civic Center. The Angels of Los Angeles are facets of Snowden’s historic commission to create the first host of sculptural angels for Los Angeles in a commission that was proposed 188 years ago in 1834 by Alta-California Governor Pío Pico. The significance of the historic legacy of Snowden’s Los Angeles Angels permeates all phases of the sculptor’s progressive work on the commission that began with the Los Angeles Angel Frieze, the Cathedral Angelic Day Model, the First Los Angeles Angel dimensional sketches, the Angelic Quartet, and Cristal – the first conceptualization of the Altar that forms a crystallized vision of Angels mediating between heaven and earth. Indeed, these various phases became finalized in the Great Golden Angels of the Main Altar.

Altar Angel of the North

The Angel of the North is the holy ark of peace. The Northern Angel surmounts the Holy Reliquary of the Main Altar housing the bones of seventeen saints including Saint Francis of Assisi, Father Junipero Serra, and Saint Patrick. Related to gemstone ruby, the Rosso Laguna marble of the Main Altar is the largest lapidary specimen of its kind in the world. Snowden has designed the Golden Angels to suspend along a mathematical calculation that does not drill the marble, but presses up against the Altar, uplifting the Angels. Snowden conjures an illusion of three dimensionality in the Angel of the North, where the work takes shape as an extremely low bas-relief of just one inch of depth that follows the curve of the Altar’s base.

Altar Angel of the South

The Angel of the South embodies prayer and intention as a holy messenger. The Southern Angel is situated frontally on the Altar facing the nave and vestibule. Sculpting sequences for each Golden Angel, particularly that of the South, began with Snowden creating a clay model on a columnar steel armature. The Angels were molded with Snowden’s advanced catalyst compounds whereupon the sculptor’s specialized molten wax was poured forming a calibrated wall in the mold. The curvature of the Main Altar was retained through re-fitting the waxes into the mold shells. Approximately thirteen stages of casting followed to produce the finished gold bullion Main Altar Angels. The gold ore used in the sculpture was a gift to Snowden’s art from a family who wished to remain anonymous.

Angel of the South

“In the studio, sculpting the Angel           transforms common clay into a radiant  substance.”    M.L. Snowden 


Altar Angel of the East

The Angel of the East commands holy power and sustenance. The Eastern Angel underscores Architect Moneo of Madrid’s cathedral design that builds along asymmetrical coordinates where no two walls of the sanctuary are alike. Indeed, The Great Golden Angels of the Main Altar re-establish the cardinal directions of the compass, underscoring mystical elements contained in the Rite of Dedication of a Holy Altar and Cathedral. More than 8,000 professional sculpture portfolios were examined in the search to commission a sculptor for the Altar. Upon receiving the commission, Snowden envisioned the Angels, particularly the Angel of the East, to be sculpted in gold in order to conceptually encompass the Latin Retablo; the resplendent golden screen that traditionally stands behind an altar.

Altar Angel of the West

The Angel of the West sustains the conduit between heaven and earth. Snowden’s Angel of the West coalesces upon a vision of up-liftment where the central core of angelic energy is centered on communication and the Angel’s role as messenger. Conceptually, all the saints in the tapestries lining the sanctuary face toward The Great Golden Angels of the Main Altar. All the Cathedral’s paving stones lead to The Great Golden Angels. The communicative role of the Angel of the West graduates from Snowden’s conceptualization into the realm of faith and quantum reality through the position of the installation that places it as the focus of millions of congregants who collect upon adoration, prayerful intentions and holy rituals placed upon the Altar. The cathedral is situated on the route of the historic El Camino Real that links the early California missions founded by Father Junipero Serra.

Angel of the West

“In the studio, I felt the Angel of the West  radiating light. To sculpt the Angel is to enlarge the fundamental properties of sculpture.”                                                      

                                                M.L. Snowden


The Los Angeles Angel Frieze

The Los Angeles Angel Frieze, is an energy structure of banded, interwoven forms. In an inter-locking composition, Snowden floats each angelic attribute to enforce its optical dimensionality. As a platinum Fournier bronze panel, the Frieze was established as a study model for the curved Golden Main Altar Angels. The Frieze is permanently mounted in the Cathedral’s Visitors Center. Snowden retains one historic cast of the Frieze divided centrally in two prts.

Early Angel
Angel of Verona

Created in 1970 at the age of 18,  Snowden’s Angel of Verona signals the sculptor’s early interest in Rodin’s floating armature in carrying out delicate forms in clay with minimal support. In this work, the artist achieves an aura of rare

peace conveying blessing  through massing circular clay structures that become energized through delicate  extensions including the hands and hair. Forty years later, Snowden’s Lightwave as well as the Golden Altar Angels exhibit the same handwork technique in their curving mass and in their fragile sweeping extensions.  In creating the Angel of Verona, Snowden realized that the natural propensity of earth clay to roundly condense as well as to thinly extrude under hand pressure, mirrors larger forces shaping geologic soils.


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