Seeing Stars: Churches of the Stars..

1324 S. Normandie Ave.,
Los Angeles, CA. / (323) 737-2424

This magnificent Greek Orthodox Church is actually the result of a Hollywood success story.

While he was still trying to get ahead in Hollywood, Charles Skouras made a vow to God that he would build a majestic cathedral if God would grant him success in show biz. Charlie Skouras got his wish. He went on to become the head of National Pictures.

What's more, his brother, Spyros Skouras (who began life as a poor Greek shepherd), became the president of 20th Century Fox and stayed at the helm of the studio for 20 years, introducing CinemaScope, and overseeing the production of such epics as "Cleopatra" (with Elizabeth Taylor), as well as the creation of Century City. His other brother, George, became the head of United Artists. And in 1932, the Skouras Brothers (Spyros, George and Charles) took over the management of over 500 Fox-West Coast theaters.

A man of his word, Charles Skouras built Saint Sophia church in 1952, in what was then the Greek section of town. And he didn't cut any corners.

You could drive right past the outside of this domed church (ordering what is now Koreatown) without ever realizing that its simple exterior conceals what is almost certainly the most beautiful church in Los Angeles and Orange Counties.

Step inside the church, and you will be overwhelmed by its sheer, dazzling beauty. Saint Sophia's is truly awe-inspiring: seventeen crystal chandeliers hang from its soaring ceilings; twelve towering stained glass windows line the walls; the altar & pulpit are a mass of ornately-carved gold, bronze and marble. Most impressive, though, are the sweeping icons (paintings) which adorn virtually every wall and ceiling in vivid colors. Above the altar is an enormous painting of the Madonna and Child. The vast dome above the center of the church contains an immense likeness of Christ.

This spectacular cathedral is truly a one-of-a-kind sight, not to be missed.

And the Hollywood connection has continued at Saint Sophia's: members of the church congregation have included actor Telly Savalas (of "Kojak" fame) and actor George Chakiris (who won an Academy Award in 1962 for his role as Bernardo in "West Side Story").  

On January 25, 1994, the funeral for Telly Savalas was held at Saint Sophia.

And in late May of 2002, NYPD Blue's Sharon Lawrence will get married at St. Sophia - in real life, the same church where her character on the show ('Sylvia Costas ') got married to Dennis Franz's character ('Detective Andy Sipowitz') on "NYPD Blue".

Hours: The church is open to visitors 10 AM - 2 PM every day except Thursday. (Doors are locked after 2 PM.) Free parking lot on the church's north side.

Caution: The only drawback to Saint Sophia is its location. What was once a primarily Greek neighborhood now borders on Koreatown, a high-crime area. The church has its own parking lot, and I have visited the church on two separate occasions without incident, but do exercise reasonable caution.

Getting there: Saint Sophia is located near the southeast corner of Pico Boulevard and Normandie Avenue. / From the Santa Monica (10) Freeway, take the Normandie Avenue exit, and drive north two blocks to Pico Blvd. The church is on your right (east) hand side. / From Hollywood and Vine, take Vine Street south (about two and a half miles) to Wilshire Boulevard. Turn left (east), and go east on Wilshire (about a mile and a half), to Normandie Avenue. Turn right (south) and go one mile south on Normandie, to just past Pico Blvd. The church will be on your left (east) side.

[For a photo tour of the cathedral, you can access St. Sophia's official webpage at:]

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