Cemeteries, New Orleans
They call the cemeteries in New Orleans "cities of the Dead". Surrounded by eight foot walls are tombs upon tombs upon tombs. The ones in the pictures, they call "ovens" (for obvious reasons). Some graves are crumpling away so bad, you swear you see bones. Some are untouched. All types of people are buried in these cemeteries surrounding the French Quarter....aristocrats, pirates, voodoo queens!!
Muggers have been known to take advantage of the many hiding places, so travel with a group is best. Walking tours are offered....information is everywhere! If tours aren't your thing, go in the morning and eavesdrop on one of the MANY tours that pass through.
If you know anything about New Orleans then you probably know it's essential that you visit their cemeteries or "cities of the dead" when you're there. You will be in awe of these "cities" and their beautiful statues, architectural and wrought iron detail.
Why not bury the dead underground like most everywhere else you ask?...
Because burial plots are shallow in New Orleans & the water table is high. If you were to dig a few feet down, the grave would become soggy, eventually filling with water. The casket would probably float!
Early settlers of the area tried actually placed stones in and on top of coffins back in the day to weigh them down and keep them underground. Unfortunately, after a rainstorm, the rising water table would literally pop the airtight coffins out of the ground. YIKES!
To this day most of the vaults within each tomb are stacked on top of one another. It is my understanding that the most recent vault (or coffin) is placed at the top within in the tomb and each vault beneath it is then moved down. The vault at the bottom is then taken out? It seems the people of New Orleans regularly handle their deceased, shifting and stacking bodies in the family crypt.
When visiting, be aware, muggings have been known to take place amidst the tombs. We did not, however, have a problem with this. But strange characters were lingering around.
The cemetaries are very unique, above ground and some are fairly ornate. Because we're below sea level most are buried above ground so the won't wash away (or worse!). There are quite a few to checkout - do it during the day only and not alone.
The above-ground tombs in the cemeteries of New Orleans are often referred to as "cities of the dead."
Votive candles line tombs on holidays to remind you the Dead have living relatives that still care.
Early settlers in the area struggled with different methods to bury the dead. Burial plots are shallow in New Orleans because the water table is high. Dig a few feet down, and the grave becomes soggy, filling with water. The casket will literally float. You just can't keep a good person down!
The early settlers tried by placing stones in and on top of coffins to weigh them down and keep them underground. Unfortunately, after a rainstorm, the rising water table would literally pop the airtight coffins out of the ground. To this day, unpredictable flooding still lifts an occasional coffin out of the ground in those areas generally considered safe from flooding and above the water table.
Another method tried was to bore holes in the coffins. This method also proved to be unsuitable. Eventually, New Orleans' graves were kept above ground following the Spanish custom of using vaults.
The walls of these cemeteries are made up of economical vaults that are stacked on top of one another. The rich and wealthier families could afford the larger ornate tombs with crypts. Many family tombs look like miniature houses complete with iron fences. The rows of tombs resemble streets. New Orleans burial plots quickly became known as "Cites of the Dead."
On your way into New Orleans from the airport, you can glimpse the newer Metairie Cemeteries.
Caution: The "Cities of the Dead" are alluring, but dangerous. Don't go there alone-- travel with a group or arrange to attend a tour. The narrow paths and tombs offer concealment for muggers.
Tours of the cemeteries are conducted by several tour companies; these tours are definitely unique, and are worth the memories!
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One of the most unique thing in New Orleans is that all their graves are build above the ground and this is because the whole of New Orleans is below sea level.
From what I gathered from the cemetery tour that I took (there are a lots of tours for you to pick from in New Orleans, theres tourist booths all over just haggle a bit on the price to get the best rate), back to what I gathered at the cemetery tour, each of this grave houses the remains of each member of a family. The coffin is put into the grave and after a year when the body disintegrates into particles, it is put into a sack/bag which is then pushed to the end of the grave until the next family member passes on.
Quite interesting actually, when in New Orleans, don't give it a miss.
New Orleans is loaded with above ground cemetaries, necessary due the city being below sea level. This is the one time I would recommend taking a guided walking tour because they can be somewhat dangerous places if you are alone. They are unique, however, and worth seeing.
When you walk around these old cemetaries you notice the beauty and elaborate-ness ..You feel the history. Most graves are above ground plots because of our sea level. Its nice to go on a misty rainy day ...just don't forget the gates close @ 5pm or you'll be locked in!!!!OVERNIGHT
There's something eerie about a visit to the cemetery - and the fact that the cemeteries are tourist attractions is a bit more eerie. But once you walk through the rows and rows of above ground tombs, there's something peaceful about the visit.
Because much of New Orleans is marshland, the dead have to be buried above ground. Locals learned of this the hard way when bodies started coming up from six feet under after heavy rains a long, long time ago. Now, the dead are buried in above ground tombs.
The water table is high in New Orleans and therefore the Spanish custom of above ground tombs are used instead of burying the dead which makes the cemetery's quite unique and quite a visitor attraction. A lot that have deteriorated over time but many have been preserved or are in the state of being restored. There is quite a mix of elaborately and even architecturally designed tombs.
In earlier times, settlers used the underground method to bury their people and used to place stones inside and on top of the coffins to weigh them down in an endeavour to keep them underground when flooding occurred. They even tried to bore holes in the coffins which wasn't the greatest of ideas either. Even today occasional flooding will cause coffins to rise out of the ground in areas not usually affected by water and therefore not buried above ground.
Walk past any cemetery in New Orleans, and you'll notice a fascinating feature of this city: In New Orleans, the dead are buried in above ground tombs. These tombs are elegant monuments, some dating back to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
The main reason for the above ground tombs is because of the very high water table, which precludes burying underground.
Not all of the cemeteries are open to tourists. However, there are two worth visiting:
Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 in the Garden District. You can find a number of prominent New Orleanians buried there. Designated a city burial site in 1833, Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 is placed on the National Register of Historic Places by virtue of its significant history, location, and architectural importance.
St. Louis No. 1 Cemetery, founded in 1789, is the burial ground of some of the most famous figures from the city's past. Here you will find the supposed tomb of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau: Etienne Bore, pioneer in sugar development; and, Paul Morphy, world famous chess champion and many more.
It is recommended to take a guided tour as it is said that wandering around alone on the cemetaries is not so safe, especially in St. Louis'.
Touring the cemetaries are interesting because of the history of the family generations. The beautifully decorated architecture of the tombs are a delight to the ambience. During the day you can walk in without a guide or ask one of the tour hosts in the quarter area for ticket info.
As morbid as this may sound, you must take a walking tour of either St. Louis or Lafayette cemetaries. The tombs are all above ground due to the water table being so high in the area, the coffins would not stay under ground! 'Historic New Orleans Walking Tours' offers entertaining & historically accurate tours daily.
Call 504-947-2120 or visit their website http://www.tourneworleans.com
New Orleans Cemetery #1 - This is a picture of Marie Louveau's tomb. See the travelogue for more info!
This is the cemetery where Marie Louveau is buried, as well as part of the Locoul family (see the travelogue about Laura Plantation to learn more about the Locoul's).
Believe it or not the cemetaries in New Orleans are very famous and often a frequent travel spot. They are very old and hold tons of history. Many famous figures are buried in these above groud cemetaries.