In the oldest part of Los Angeles, you’ll find a detailed mural by Italian-American artist Leo Politi celebrating the annual Blessing of the Animals.
Each year on Sábado de Gloria (the Saturday before Easter), the Catholic Diocese of Los Angeles holds a Blessing of the Animals in downtown Los Angeles at the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument.
This is a tradition that goes back to the early days of the pueblo’s founding when priests would bless cows, horses, and goats at La Placita Church to help ensure health, fecundity, and productivity.
When Olvera Street opened in 1930, the annual blessing continued but was no longer limited to livestock. People began to bring their pets in addition to working animals to receive the church’s blessing.
Blessing of the Animals Mural
In 1978, beloved artist Leo Politi, a regular fixture along Olvera Street in its early days, painted a mural depicting a typical Blessing of the Animals Event. His painting has been on display along one side of the the Biscailuz Building (once the location of the Consulado de Mexico, which is now located adjacent to MacArthur Park) for 44 years.
A devout Catholic, Politi painted his mural as a tribute to St. Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscan Order and patron saint of animals (as well as nature, ecology, and merchants). Interestingly, however, the Franciscan Blessing of the Animals is usually held on October 4 to coincide with the feast of St. Francis.
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It’s unclear why Los Angeles holds this blessing in the Spring. But considering its livestock-centric origins, the timing may have something do with Easter’s roots as a Spring festival — and one that coincides with the beginning of the planting season.
The Blessing of the Animals still takes place in El Pueblo, but today, instead of happening between the crowded vendors on Olvera Street, it’s typically held along Main Street, near Pico House.
Blessing of the Animals Annual Celebration
The Blessing of the Animals hasn’t been held at El Pueblo for the past two years, but it’s back in 2022. The event will be held on Saturday, April 16, and Archbishop Gómez himself will be on hand to provide the blessings. Visit Olvera Events for more details about this year’s Blessing of the Animals celebration.
Blessing of the Animals Mural
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