Outside, the modern world of 21st century Los Angeles County may hurry along on nearby highway 101, but once visitors enter Mission Basilica San Buenaventura, with its tranquil palm-tree-lined gardens, they’re soon transported to a different state of mind and spirit. Inside the basilica itself, the essence of its rich past seems to echo off the six-foot thick stone walls. Many of the religious statues and works of art that endow the room with a transformative quality, actually predate the mission’s 1782 founding.
Although the building’s old lighting system didn’t go quite that far back, being installed in the 1980s, it became apparent to the church, under the leadership of Father Tom Elewaut, that an upgrade was needed. To accomplish this, the pastor and his team contacted Mar Vista Sales, Inc. which, after carefully evaluating the church’s needs and making product demos, installed an energy efficient LED system featuring 7 Ovation P-56WW par style fixtures and 31 Ovation E-160WW ellipsoidal units from CHAUVET Professional.
Completed just before Lent, the upgrade couldn’t have been timelier. Less than a year earlier Pope Francis awarded the historic mission the status of Minor Basilica, a prestigious honor in the Catholic Church. (There are only 89 such designation in the United States.) The new lighting system was in keeping with the church’s higher profile. It also ensured that the church could add a new dimension to its livestreams, while at the same time creating an even more engaging environment for visitors.
“Father Tom wanted to enhance the mission by bringing back to life all the religious statues and relics,” said J.R. Dominguez of Mar Vista Sales. “Many of the pieces in the church were created in the 18th century and have been on display for years. Our challenge was to enliven these artifacts and bring back the original character and significance.
“Careful attention was paid to the Stations of The Cross frescos through framing, and focused light from the Chauvet Ovation fixtures,” continued Dominguez. “The effect was so dramatic, that visitors and parishioners have been awed by the beauty of the art and character of the revitalized church.”
Dominguez and the Mar Vista Sales team divided the new system into 12 different “light stations,” which collectively can illuminate the church’s artwork in a multitude of ways. The flat, even field of light and tight focus of both fixtures ensures that the statues and art objects at the church are lit cleanly with no shadows or spill overs, while their virtually silent operation allows them to be operated discretely without disturbing worshippers.
For his part, Father Elewaut is pleased with how the new lighting system has contributed to the overall environment at the basilica. “The LED energy efficient theatrical enhancements create a spiritually uplifting appreciation of the basilica’s sacred paintings, statues, and tapestry,” he said. “Parishioners who have come to visit have seen the progress of the lighting, which is extraordinary compared to what we had for over 40 years. Some have said the basilica is now a sacred museum.”