One of the most interesting things I discovered about New Orleans during my visit, was that there is this wonderful paradox of the city.It is both the most lively, colorful, exuberant place and simultaneously it is surrounded by death and loss, whether in the many graveyards around the city, or in its, often dark, history. Because of that dichotomy I think it’s really crucial to not only visit places like Bourbon Street in the French Quarter, where you certainly get a sense of the life and vibrancy of the city, but also to visit places like cemeteries.
There are tons of great historic cemeteries around New Orleans, but my favorite one that I visited with my Mission Team was St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. We had been in contact with a high school history teacher from the area who graciously showed us around and told us a little about the different graves that we saw. There are tons of interesting graves in this cemetery, from the group of Protestant Graves (separated from the main graves and pushed into the back corner), to the ornate Italian graves, to the graves of famous individuals.
This particular cemetery is the final resting place for the infamous Madame Marie Leveau, made famous in New Orleans, and around the world for her voodoo. You can see three of her graves in this cemetery, but the one pictured above on the right is the real one. When we visited you could see XXX marked all over the stone, and people placing offerings at the foot of the grave. It’s common practice to knock three times on the stone and make your wish to Marie Leveau.
Homer Plessy, of the Plessy v. Ferguson case is also buried here and his is an interesting historic grave to pick out.
But one of my favorites is the pyramid of Nicholas Cage. You heard me right, you know that actor who’s very much alive? That’s the one! He has already had his tomb built in this cemetery and when the time comes this is where his body will lie. For now, it’s just a seemingly random, white, pyramid, inscribed with Latin in the center of the cemetery.
Besides the graves I’ve mentioned above, the graves of Etienne de Bore (first mayor of New Orleans), Bernard de Marigny (the man who brought the game “craps” to the US), Ernest Morial (the first African-American mayor of New Orleans), and many others can also be found here, in the oldest of the St. Louis Cemeteries.
- We went with a guide and it was a great experience, I think you could figure out a great deal of the history on your own if you look up some of the famous graves and historic figures before your visit though.
Where: 425 Basin Street, 3421 Esplanade Ave, New Orleans, LA
When: Monday-Saturday 9AM-3PM, Sunday 9AM-12PM
Which grave did you find the most interesting?
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