Robert Hemedes"> clock menu more-arrow no yes
Image by <a href="http://www.atlasobscura.com/users/rjhemedes">Robert Hemedes</a>
Image by Robert Hemedes

An introduction to LA's awe-inspiring but little-known religious centers

View as Map
Image by Robert Hemedes

Tomorrow, Katy Perry and the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary will be back in court fighting over the future of the nun's former convent in the hills of Los Feliz. But these tenacious nuns are not the only religious order in Los Angeles—they are part of a large interfaith community of monks, nuns, swamis, and devotees who live the religious life in this city better known for its sin. Here we map some of the most notable and beautiful religious centers in the Los Angeles area, and there's not a Scientology building in sight!

Special thanks to Erin Johnson and Robert Hemedes for the use of their photographs.

· The Katy Perry/Nun Convent War Lawsuit is Turning Out Predictably Bonkers [Curbed LA]
· Mapping 15 of Scientology's Most Notable SoCal Properties [Curbed LA]

Read More

1. Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Copy Link
3431 Waverly Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Designed by famed architect Bernard Maybeck, this fantastical 1927 estate in the hills of Los Feliz was home to the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary from 1970 to 2011. The famously rebellious nuns have been active in Los Angeles for over a century. In 1906, they founded the Immaculate Heart High School, which still operates at 5515 Franklin Avenue. Image via Michael Locke

2. Hsi Lai Temple

Copy Link
3456 Glenmark Dr
Hacienda Heights, CA 91745
(626) 961-9697
Visit Website
Opened in 1988, the 15-acre Hsi Lai ("coming to the West") Temple is a mountain monastery built in the style of Ming and Ching Dynasties. The monks here are affiliated with the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order of Taiwan and dedicated to propagating "Humanistic Buddhism" in the United States. Image via Airbutchie

3. Monastery of the Angels

Copy Link
1977 Carmen Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90068
(323) 466-2186
Visit Website
Designed by legendary architect Wallace Neff for the Dominican Sisters in 1947, this Hollywood convent is home to cloistered nuns famous for their pumpkin bread and devotion to prayer. The Spanish Mediterranean style monastery was once a favorite retreat for Catholic movie stars including Irene Dunne, Jane Wyman, and Loretta Young. Image via Michael Locke

4. Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center

Copy Link
700 North Sunnyside Avenue
Sierra Madre, CA 91024
This monastery and retreat center in mountainous Sierra Madre was dedicated in 1932 by the Passionists, a religious order founded by St. Paul of the Cross in the Eighteenth Century. Today, they continue to offer retreats to more than 10,000 men and women each year, including married couples and people in twelve-step and AA recovery.

5. Serra Retreat

Copy Link
3401 Serra Road
Malibu, CA 90265
Located on 26 acres above Malibu Creek, this unfinished Mediterranean style estate was bought by the Franciscan order in 1942 for only $50,000. Today, the bucolic center hosts Catholic, Protestant and educational retreats. “The people in our neighborhood consider us the jewel of the canyon," one Franciscan says. "One resident told me, ‘When I see the cross at night, I know I’m home safe.'”

6. BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir

Copy Link
15100 Fairfield Ranch Road
Chino Hills, CA 91709
This awe-inspiring Hindu mandir was completed in 2012. Made with exquisitely carved Carrara marble and pink sandstone, it claims to be the only earthquake-proof mandir in the world. It is powered by a system of solar panels. The 20-acre grounds also feature a 91-foot, Lotus-shaped reflection pool.

7. Hare Krishna Temple

Copy Link
3764 Watseka Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90034
The Hare Krishna community of Los Angeles lives in housing surrounding this colorful pink temple on a quiet side street in Culver City. The adjacent Bhagavad Gita Museum, featuring numerous dioramas and animatronics depicting the life of Krishna, is a must-see for every curious Angeleno.

8. Saint Andrews Abbey

Copy Link
31001 North Valyermo Road
Valyermo, CA 93563
In 1955, the Catholic monks of St. Benedict's Priory in Chengtu, China were expelled by the Communist regime. They were taken in by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and soon found a new home at the former Hidden Springs Ranch in rural Valyermo. Today, the Abbey is a retreat center and a permanent home for 20 monks.

9. Lu Mountain Temple

Copy Link
7509 Mooney Dr
Rosemead, CA 91770
Run by Bodhi Light International, this Buddhist temple and monastery (a converted 1950s tract home) was thrust into the spotlight in 2013, when it received a donation of more than 10,000 Buddhist relics. The highlight of the collection is a rare tooth relic of the Buddha. "No one knows about us. We're perfectly happy,” said the abbot of Lu Mountain. “And then the shariras [relics] suddenly push us into the limelight."

10. Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart

Copy Link
920 East Alhambra Road
Alhambra, CA 91801
This retreat is run by the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart. These socially active nuns are dedicated to promoting a deeper spiritual life through healthcare, education, and retreats. Their three-acre main campus features an auditorium, library, chapel, and numerous overnight accommodations and gardens.

11. Self Realization Fellowship International Headquarters

Copy Link
3880 San Rafael Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90065
(323) 225-2471
In 1909, this Mission Revival property opened as the short lived Mount Washington Hotel. In the 1920s, Paramahansa Yogananda, "the founder of yoga in the West," chose it as his international headquarters. Today, the beautiful property features panoramic views of LA, beautiful meditation gardens, and SRF monks and nuns in billowing, brightly-colored saris.

12. Ramakrishna Monastery

Copy Link
19961 Live Oak Canyon Road
Trabuco Canyon, CA 92679
This secluded Hindu monastery in Trabuco Canyon can be reached by a series of winding rural roads in Orange Country. Vedanta Swamis (monks) have called this 40-acre property home since 1949. It was originally built as an interfaith prayer center in the 1930s.

13. Aetherius Society

Copy Link
6202 Afton Place
Los Angeles, CA 90028
Founded by Dr. George King, this religion's beliefs and practices include aspects of "Christianity, eastern mysticism (especially yoga philosophy) and cosmic new age spirituality." They also believe in godlike aliens, which they call "cosmic masters." Their Hollywood compound, opened in 1965, includes a room awaiting Dr. King's return.

14. Self Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine Temple and Retreat

Copy Link
17190 W Sunset Blvd
Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
(310) 454-4114
Visit Website
This exquisite oasis in Pacific Palisades was bought in 1940 by Everett McElroy, a 20th Century Fox construction supervisor. He added the iconic windmill and houseboat to the property. The SRF purchased the valuable plot, and in 1950 it was opened as the Lake Shrine. SRF founder Paramahansa Yogananda designed the "golden lotus archway." A large temple was completed in 1996.

15. Middle Land Chan Monastery

Copy Link
1173 San Bernardino Ave
Pomona, CA 91767
This monastery is rooted in the practices of the traditional Linji school of Chan Buddhism. It was opened in 2008 by Venerable Master Wei Chueh, the founding abbot of Chung Tai Chan Monastery in Taiwan. The three-acre property includes gardens, a meditation hall, and living and dining quarters.

16. Long Beach Sagely Monastery

Copy Link
3361 E Ocean Blvd
Long Beach, CA 90803
This Buddhist monastery was a cloistered Catholic convent for 40 years. When the City of 10,000 Buddhas bought the convent and converted it into a monastery, they kept a statue of the Virgin Mary, because she is worshiped as Guanyin Bodhisattva.

17. Carmel of St. Teresa

Copy Link
215 E Alhambra Rd
Alhambra, CA 91801
This cloistered Carmelite convent was built in 1923 on the site of a former orange grove. There are now 15 sisters at the convent following in the footsteps of their patron St. Theresa, who lived a life of "prayer, silence, penance, and sacrifice."

18. Krotona

Copy Link
2130 Vista Del Mar Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90068
This apartment building in Beachwood Canyon was once the heart of the national headquarters of the esoteric Theosophical Society. From 1912 to 1924, around 300 members of the society lived in various exotic homes around Krotona. Architects including Mead and Requa, Arthur and Alfred Heinemen, and the self-taught Marie Russak Hotchener designed buildings for the colony.

19. Wilshire Boulevard Temple

Copy Link
3663 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90010
Designed in the Byzantine Revival style, this 1928 temple is home to B'nai B'rith, the oldest Jewish congregation in Los Angles. Famed artist Hugo Ballin was commissioned by the Warner brothers (of the iconic studio) to paint a series of biblically themed murals for the temple. Image via Michael Locke

20. Angelus Temple

Copy Link
1100 Glendale Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026
Opened on New Year's Day 1923, this impressive temple was the headquarters of the charismatic Christian preacher Aimee Semple McPherson. McPherson lived in the parsonage next door, while church members and students lived in housing around the temple. The Angelus Temple complex is now the home of the Dream Center. Image via Michael Locke

1. Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

3431 Waverly Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90027
Designed by famed architect Bernard Maybeck, this fantastical 1927 estate in the hills of Los Feliz was home to the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary from 1970 to 2011. The famously rebellious nuns have been active in Los Angeles for over a century. In 1906, they founded the Immaculate Heart High School, which still operates at 5515 Franklin Avenue. Image via Michael Locke
3431 Waverly Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90027

2. Hsi Lai Temple

3456 Glenmark Dr, Hacienda Heights, CA 91745
Opened in 1988, the 15-acre Hsi Lai ("coming to the West") Temple is a mountain monastery built in the style of Ming and Ching Dynasties. The monks here are affiliated with the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order of Taiwan and dedicated to propagating "Humanistic Buddhism" in the United States. Image via Airbutchie
3456 Glenmark Dr
Hacienda Heights, CA 91745

3. Monastery of the Angels

1977 Carmen Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90068
Designed by legendary architect Wallace Neff for the Dominican Sisters in 1947, this Hollywood convent is home to cloistered nuns famous for their pumpkin bread and devotion to prayer. The Spanish Mediterranean style monastery was once a favorite retreat for Catholic movie stars including Irene Dunne, Jane Wyman, and Loretta Young. Image via Michael Locke
1977 Carmen Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90068

4. Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center

700 North Sunnyside Avenue, Sierra Madre, CA 91024
This monastery and retreat center in mountainous Sierra Madre was dedicated in 1932 by the Passionists, a religious order founded by St. Paul of the Cross in the Eighteenth Century. Today, they continue to offer retreats to more than 10,000 men and women each year, including married couples and people in twelve-step and AA recovery.
700 North Sunnyside Avenue
Sierra Madre, CA 91024

5. Serra Retreat

3401 Serra Road, Malibu, CA 90265
Located on 26 acres above Malibu Creek, this unfinished Mediterranean style estate was bought by the Franciscan order in 1942 for only $50,000. Today, the bucolic center hosts Catholic, Protestant and educational retreats. “The people in our neighborhood consider us the jewel of the canyon," one Franciscan says. "One resident told me, ‘When I see the cross at night, I know I’m home safe.'”
3401 Serra Road
Malibu, CA 90265

6. BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir

15100 Fairfield Ranch Road, Chino Hills, CA 91709
This awe-inspiring Hindu mandir was completed in 2012. Made with exquisitely carved Carrara marble and pink sandstone, it claims to be the only earthquake-proof mandir in the world. It is powered by a system of solar panels. The 20-acre grounds also feature a 91-foot, Lotus-shaped reflection pool.
15100 Fairfield Ranch Road
Chino Hills, CA 91709

7. Hare Krishna Temple

3764 Watseka Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90034
The Hare Krishna community of Los Angeles lives in housing surrounding this colorful pink temple on a quiet side street in Culver City. The adjacent Bhagavad Gita Museum, featuring numerous dioramas and animatronics depicting the life of Krishna, is a must-see for every curious Angeleno.
3764 Watseka Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90034

8. Saint Andrews Abbey

31001 North Valyermo Road, Valyermo, CA 93563
In 1955, the Catholic monks of St. Benedict's Priory in Chengtu, China were expelled by the Communist regime. They were taken in by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and soon found a new home at the former Hidden Springs Ranch in rural Valyermo. Today, the Abbey is a retreat center and a permanent home for 20 monks.
31001 North Valyermo Road
Valyermo, CA 93563

9. Lu Mountain Temple

7509 Mooney Dr, Rosemead, CA 91770
Run by Bodhi Light International, this Buddhist temple and monastery (a converted 1950s tract home) was thrust into the spotlight in 2013, when it received a donation of more than 10,000 Buddhist relics. The highlight of the collection is a rare tooth relic of the Buddha. "No one knows about us. We're perfectly happy,” said the abbot of Lu Mountain. “And then the shariras [relics] suddenly push us into the limelight."
7509 Mooney Dr
Rosemead, CA 91770

10. Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart

920 East Alhambra Road, Alhambra, CA 91801
This retreat is run by the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart. These socially active nuns are dedicated to promoting a deeper spiritual life through healthcare, education, and retreats. Their three-acre main campus features an auditorium, library, chapel, and numerous overnight accommodations and gardens.
920 East Alhambra Road
Alhambra, CA 91801

11. Self Realization Fellowship International Headquarters

3880 San Rafael Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90065
In 1909, this Mission Revival property opened as the short lived Mount Washington Hotel. In the 1920s, Paramahansa Yogananda, "the founder of yoga in the West," chose it as his international headquarters. Today, the beautiful property features panoramic views of LA, beautiful meditation gardens, and SRF monks and nuns in billowing, brightly-colored saris.
3880 San Rafael Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90065

12. Ramakrishna Monastery

19961 Live Oak Canyon Road, Trabuco Canyon, CA 92679
This secluded Hindu monastery in Trabuco Canyon can be reached by a series of winding rural roads in Orange Country. Vedanta Swamis (monks) have called this 40-acre property home since 1949. It was originally built as an interfaith prayer center in the 1930s.
19961 Live Oak Canyon Road
Trabuco Canyon, CA 92679

13. Aetherius Society

6202 Afton Place, Los Angeles, CA 90028
Founded by Dr. George King, this religion's beliefs and practices include aspects of "Christianity, eastern mysticism (especially yoga philosophy) and cosmic new age spirituality." They also believe in godlike aliens, which they call "cosmic masters." Their Hollywood compound, opened in 1965, includes a room awaiting Dr. King's return.
6202 Afton Place
Los Angeles, CA 90028

14. Self Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine Temple and Retreat

17190 W Sunset Blvd, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
This exquisite oasis in Pacific Palisades was bought in 1940 by Everett McElroy, a 20th Century Fox construction supervisor. He added the iconic windmill and houseboat to the property. The SRF purchased the valuable plot, and in 1950 it was opened as the Lake Shrine. SRF founder Paramahansa Yogananda designed the "golden lotus archway." A large temple was completed in 1996.
17190 W Sunset Blvd
Pacific Palisades, CA 90272

15. Middle Land Chan Monastery

1173 San Bernardino Ave, Pomona, CA 91767
This monastery is rooted in the practices of the traditional Linji school of Chan Buddhism. It was opened in 2008 by Venerable Master Wei Chueh, the founding abbot of Chung Tai Chan Monastery in Taiwan. The three-acre property includes gardens, a meditation hall, and living and dining quarters.
1173 San Bernardino Ave
Pomona, CA 91767

16. Long Beach Sagely Monastery

3361 E Ocean Blvd, Long Beach, CA 90803
This Buddhist monastery was a cloistered Catholic convent for 40 years. When the City of 10,000 Buddhas bought the convent and converted it into a monastery, they kept a statue of the Virgin Mary, because she is worshiped as Guanyin Bodhisattva.
3361 E Ocean Blvd
Long Beach, CA 90803

17. Carmel of St. Teresa

215 E Alhambra Rd, Alhambra, CA 91801
This cloistered Carmelite convent was built in 1923 on the site of a former orange grove. There are now 15 sisters at the convent following in the footsteps of their patron St. Theresa, who lived a life of "prayer, silence, penance, and sacrifice."
215 E Alhambra Rd
Alhambra, CA 91801

18. Krotona

2130 Vista Del Mar Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90068
This apartment building in Beachwood Canyon was once the heart of the national headquarters of the esoteric Theosophical Society. From 1912 to 1924, around 300 members of the society lived in various exotic homes around Krotona. Architects including Mead and Requa, Arthur and Alfred Heinemen, and the self-taught Marie Russak Hotchener designed buildings for the colony.
2130 Vista Del Mar Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90068

19. Wilshire Boulevard Temple

3663 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90010
Designed in the Byzantine Revival style, this 1928 temple is home to B'nai B'rith, the oldest Jewish congregation in Los Angles. Famed artist Hugo Ballin was commissioned by the Warner brothers (of the iconic studio) to paint a series of biblically themed murals for the temple. Image via Michael Locke
3663 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90010

20. Angelus Temple

1100 Glendale Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026
Opened on New Year's Day 1923, this impressive temple was the headquarters of the charismatic Christian preacher Aimee Semple McPherson. McPherson lived in the parsonage next door, while church members and students lived in housing around the temple. The Angelus Temple complex is now the home of the Dream Center. Image via Michael Locke
1100 Glendale Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026