Cemeteries, New Orleans
I wanted to see at least one of the cemeteries but as I was on a budget I didn't really want to take a tour. By accident I was coming out of the quarter along the same street as a horse and carriage tour (they were moving along at walking pace) - I took the opportunity to shadow the small group across to the cemetery to see where the guide took them. They didn't venture very far inside the gates so I stuck to the same parts, and left when they did (being a lone female). I got a few pictures as I wanted, and as the tours where coming in every few minutes it's pretty easy to do this and maybe safer than being in there alone with your camera.
I never saw anything like the coffins encrypted above the ground. We visited the cemeteries in the Garden District and another Lafayette #3 near the Art Museum on Esplanade. I was surprised at how busy the cemeteries were and how friendly everyone was.
It's not a case of being morbid, but the cemetaries in New Orleans give an insight into the practical difficulties of laying people to rest in an area that is at or below sea level. We visited St.Louis and Lafayette #3 cemetaries and learned about the practice of burying multiple bodies in one above ground tomb - and how they managed to get multiple bodies into such relatively small spaces. Won't spoil the surprise, but take a quick trip - its fascinating.
We visited one cemetery as part of the 2hr city VIP bus tour.
If you love history, there's a ton of it to be learned by taking one of the cemetery tours. I stumbled upon one across from Commanders that was free but it's nice to make a donation because they can use the support. It sounds kind of creepy but the feeling goes away quickly.
The oldest cemetery in New Orleans, St. Louis Cemetery #1 was founded in 1789. It's listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Most of the burial sites are elaborate above ground vaults and tombstones. One that looks out of place among the others is actor, producer and director - Nicholas Cage's site.
Cage purchased two plots back in 2010. He erected a 9-foot-tall gray pyramid and placed the words ‘Omnia Ab Uno’ on one side. In Latin it means - Everything From One.
Others buried nearby are the infamous Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau. You will find it by seeing all the "x" marks. Stories are told that Laveau will grant a wish if a visitor draws an "X" on her tomb. Then the visitor needs to turn around three times, knock on the tomb and yell out their wish. If the wish comes true, the visitor needs to come back and circle their "x." Many visitors leave Laveau offering. You will see candles, flowers and other items.
I visited NOLA a few years back and was warned against walking through the cemeteries without a group. My best friend and I went alone (both young chicks) to St Louis #2, supposedly the worst to visit. I can't even find pictures of St Louis #2! lol
I have to be honest with you, I don't see what all the fuss was about. We went during the day, and aside from the fact that it's situated next to project homes, I can't see what upsets people so much. The people were friendly and I felt perfectly safe. In fact, I felt safer there than I do in Indianapolis...lol.
Maybe we got lucky, or maybe it's just hype from people that fear poverty.
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.
A bit creepy at first glance, but once you are inside it is well worth any trepidations you may have. New Oreans is below sea level, so all the graves are above ground, and since space was minimal, many members of the same family are put inside the same grave. The cemeteries were not kept up by the city, so many of the graves are in poor condition. Do take caution, as this cemetery can be dangerous after dark.
This famiy tomb is now empty. Apparently the family had all died out and no one is left to be entombed here. The process where the bodies are entombed was facinating. Instead of being cremated or buried, the body is entombed in a casket, placed on the top shelf and the tomb is sealed. After one year and a day the seal is opened, the casket removed, the body removed (practically cremated because the inside temperatures of this tomb are around 250 degrees) and broken up then scattered on the bottom of this crypt. Interesting!
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. Plots were made this way because New Orleans is below sea level, and if bodies were put into graves, they would wash away because of the very high water table. There are many elaborate graves and ones into which many bodies were thrown when new family members took the space. These tombs are beautiful monuments, some dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. Not all of the cemeteries are open to tourists. There are two worth visiting. One of these is Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 in the Garden District. Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 was placed on the National Register of Historic Places for its significant history, location, and architectural importance. The other is St. Louis No. 1 Cemetery, which 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. Go with a tour to get the history of the cemeteries and because some of the surrounding areas around the sites can be unsavory.
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.
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.
The St Louis Cemetary is adjacent to the French Quarter. This is where the Vodoo queen Marie Laveau is buried. This is also place where part of Easy Rider was shot. The picture shows the grave that Peter Fonda was climbing on his acid trip in Easy Rider.
The above grouns cemeteries are a site for those not use to seeing such a thing. You can just drive by them, or take a guided tour!!!
Visit the old cemeteries and see how all the graves are above ground. New Orleans is below the water level.