The former Cathedral of St. Vibiana, now known simply as Vibiana, opened in 1876 following five years of construction. It was the first cathedral constructed for the Diocese, which at the time stretched from San Diego north to Monterey.
Designed by architect Ezra F. Kysor, one of Los Angeles’ first practicing architects, the cathedral was a stunning work of architecture in a town still emerging from its pueblo origins. Its Early Baroque façade was patterned after that of Sant Miquel del Port in Barcelona, the boyhood church of Diocesan Bishop Thaddeus Amat. The cathedral was dedicated to St. Vibiana, a third century virgin martyr whose tomb and remains were unearthed in 1853 in ancient catacombs near Rome.
At the time of its construction, the cathedral could comfortably hold one-tenth of the city’s residents, though Los Angeles’ population would balloon exponentially in the decades that followed. Renowned architect John C. Austin enlarged the structure in 1924 and created a new Main Street façade fashioned from Indiana limestone. St. Vibiana’s Cathedral was designated Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument #17 in 1963.
The attempted demolition of the cathedral was one of the Conservancy's toughest battles and greatest victories.