California is home to the three most imaginative and successful modern Roman Catholic cathedrals in the country. St. Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco (1971), designed by the Italian engineer/architect Pier Luigi Nervi, and José Rafael Moneo's Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, which opened in Los Angeles six years ago, have now been joined by Oakland's ingeniously designed and handsomely crafted Cathedral of Christ the Light.
The diocese of Oakland, which now includes more than half a million Catholics, was split off in 1962 from the archdiocese of San Francisco. When the 1893 neo-Gothic brick church the diocese was using as its episcopal seat was damaged by an earthquake in 1989, Bishop John Cummins decided to tear it down and replace it. In 2000, a design competition was held for a new cathedral complex to be built on the shore of Lake Merritt, a 155-acre estuary that serves as the breathing space for what is probably the most ethnically diverse city in the nation.