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Saint Vibiana
Birth: unknown
Death: c. Aug. 31, 250

Roman Catholic Saint. A 3rd Century Christian martyr, she is the patron saint of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, California. Her relics are enshrined there. All we know about her is that she died for her faith, and the history of her sainthood is an odyssey reflecting the growth of the city and changes within the Catholic Church at large. The existence of Vibiana was discovered in Rome on December 9, 1853, during excavation of the Pretestato Catacombs near the Appian Way. Workmen unearthed a tomb sealed with a marble tablet inscribed, "To the soul of the innocent and pure Vibiana, laid away the day before the kalends of September [August 31]". At the end of the inscription was a laurel wreath, an early Christian symbol for martyrdom. Inside the sepulcher were the bones of a young woman, the disposition of which suggested a violent death, and a rose-colored vial purportedly containing dried blood. Pope Pius IX ordered an immediate investigation to authenticate the find. Satisfied with the results, he bestowed "equivalent canonization" on Vibiana as a Roman Era virgin and martyr in February 1854, bypassing the judicial and ceremonial procedures in declaring sainthood. September 1 would be formalized as her feast day. Several bishops petitioned for custody of her remains, as saint relics were a required presence in cathedrals and gave those who possessed them considerable prestige. The following month, the Vincentian missionary Rev. Thaddeus Amat of Philadelphia was consecrated in Rome as the Bishop of Monterey, a jurisdiction encompassing the southern half of California. Initially he was so unenthusiastic about the promotion that mere rumors of it made him flee to Spain in a futile attempt to dodge the papal summons. The pontiff was aware of this but remained firm in his choice. Perhaps to give his reluctant new bishop greater incentive, Pius IX entrusted Vibiana's relics to Amat with the stipulation that he build a cathedral in her honor and declare her the principal patroness of his diocese. In preparation the martyr's bones were encased in a wax effigy dressed in silk garments. After an eight-month journey, with stops in New York City, Lima, Peru, San Francisco and Monterey, Bishop Amat arrived in Santa Barbara, California with his precious cargo on December 2, 1855. Vibiana was placed in an ornately carved reliquary beside the altar of the new Church of Our Lady of Sorrows. A local journalist reported this as a historic event, along with the congregation's hopes that the relics would "possess a miraculous influence, in which case that town will become a resort". Amat intended to raise Vibiana's cathedral in Santa Barbara, going so far as to have foundation stones delivered to the proposed site; instead he found himself in a power struggle with the area's entrenched Franciscan Order. In 1859 he transferred his base of operations to Los Angeles and the diocese was renamed Monterey-Los Angeles. He rebuilt the city's central landmark, the Old Plaza Church, and some say he had Vibiana's reliquary installed there upon its completion in 1861. Others claim the relics were not brought to Los Angeles until later in the decade, having miraculously survived the fire that destroyed the Church of Our Lady of Sorrows in August 1865. (Future Angeleno Cardinal Timothy Manning joked that the fire was Vibiana's way of saying she preferred to be in L.A.). Amat laid the cornerstone for the new cathedral in 1871; its design was based on a church in his native Barcelona, Spain. On April 30, 1876, Los Angeles became the offical see of the diocese when the Cathedral of St. Vibiana was finally dedicated by Coadjutor Bishop Francisco Mora. It seated 1200, one-tenth of the city's population at that time. A solemn procession led by a Mexican band accompanied Vibiana from the Plaza Church to her new shrine, a gilt and plate glass reliquary in an alcove above the high altar. This would be her resting place for the next 100 years - though not all of them would be peaceful. Unknown before 1853, canonized without a life story or recognized miracles, and then dispatched to the American frontier, Vibiana was too obscure to inspire a cult following. And her modest cathedral was soon regarded as insufficient to serve as mother church to L.A.'s burgeoning Catholic population. "It is much to be regretted that we have not developed a strong devotion to the sainted patroness of our diocese and its principal church", one writer noted in 1926. These factors left her vulnerable to the whims of local ecclesiasts (with support from the Holy See) who sought to promote more revered figures. In 1904, Bishop Thomas Conaty received permission from Pope Pius X to demolish St. Vibiana's and erect a new cathedral in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe. An economic recession in 1907 postponed the project and Conaty died in 1915. His successor, Bishop John J. Cantwell, also saw the need for a new cathedral - he compared the existing one to "worn-out garments". Two World Wars and the Great Depression intervened, but in 1945 he bought property and announced plans to build a vast Gothic structure. Pope Pius XII agreed to changing its patronage from Vibiana to Our Lady of the Angels (Mary). Cantwell's death in 1947 halted the project once more. In the 1950s the Vatican dropped Vibiana's feast day from the liturgical calendar, along with those of other saints lacking historical information, prompting Cardinal James Francis McIntyre to send a furious letter of protest to Rome. The post-Vatican II years saw the decline of the exposure of saint relics for veneration, especially in the United States. In keeping with this trend Vibiana's effigy was removed from public view in 1976 and entombed in a marble sarcophagus on the south side of the sanctuary. In her place above the altar a portrayal of Our Lady of the Angels was erected - a portent of things to come. For a time her maligned, threatened cathedral was still a notable symbol of what became the nation's largest Catholic Archdiocese. Pope John Paul II used St. Vibiana's as his headquarters during his 1987 stay in Los Angeles, and President Bill Clinton spoke there in 1995. But the congregation had thinned over the years as its location deteriorated into part of Downtown's Skid Row. The 1994 Northridge Earthquake sealed its fate as a house of worship. In May 1996, Cardinal Roger Mahony announced the immediate demolition of St. Vibiana's, citing seismic damage from the quake and its aftershocks. Vibiana's remains were moved to a basement crypt in the mausoleum at Calvary Cemetery in East Los Angeles, its exact location kept secret. An ugly legal fight ensued between the archdiocese and preservationists who wanted to save the historic church, which had been designated a City Landmark in 1963. The imbroglio probably gave the saint more publicity than at any time since she was first exumed. It ended with an agreement that St. Vibiana's would be salvaged for secular use, in exchange for the sale of desirable city-owned property to the archdiocese for construction of a new cathedral. The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels was dedicated on September 2, 2002. St. Vibiana's was sold to a private developer and reopened in 2005 as Vibiana, an events center. Vibiana herself now has a shrine and adjacent chapel in the crypt of Our Lady of the Angels. Worshippers can approach her resting place when earlier generations could only view it from below. Yet she remains as elusive as ever. She is often confused with the 4th Century Roman martyr Saint Bibiana, even in an otherwise comprehensive 2003 "Encyclopedia of Saints". There are no Saint Vibiana medals or keepsakes available in standard religious catalogs. Los Angeles deacon Eric Stoltz, dubbing Vibiana "The Patron of Nobodies", offered this take on what she could mean to the faithful: "Who was she? She is an enigma. She is nobody and everybody. Her feast is celebrated only by us here in Los Angeles. Because we don't know the details of her life, in one way it is difficult to ascribe to her particular virtues we can imitate. Yet in another way, this makes it easier for us to identify with her. All we know about her is that she was a martyr. And that is enough. She stands for all of us, the insignificant ones who will never be written about in history books". (bio by: Bobb Edwards) 
 
Burial:
Calvary Cemetery
Los Angeles
Los Angeles County
California, USA
Plot: Main Mausoleum, Basement. Interred in undisclosed crypt from 1996 to 2002
 
Maintained by: Find A Grave
Originally Created by: Bobb Edwards
Record added: Feb 27, 2012
Find A Grave Memorial# 85810611
Saint Vibiana
Added by: Anonymous
 
Saint Vibiana
Cemetery Photo
Added by: James Seidelman
 
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- GraveGypsie9
 Added: Dec. 10, 2012

- Bobb Edwards
 Added: Aug. 31, 2012

- Donna Lee Wall
 Added: Aug. 31, 2012
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