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Cajuns call St. Martin de Tours Catholic Church the “Mother Church of the Acadians” for it was here in St. Martinville that the largest immigration of Acadians occurred in 1785. But the church was established before the Acadian’s arrival, in 1765, and church records hail back even further. It is the fourth oldest church in the State of Louisiana. Built in 1836 The current Gothic Revival structure was constructed around 1836 on the site of a previous church and is the center of the town’s square. The "gated" or box pews are a throwback to era when churches reserved pews for individual member families. The stained glass windows cast beautiful colored light onto the pews. Many parishioners recall days of their youth sitting on the floor playing with the bright blocks of color. Doric columns run through the cypress pews separating the nave from the side aisles. The original baptismal font, thought to be a gift from the King of France, is an exquisite ornamental marble design.
Guided tours (free) and Masses of St. Martin de Tours are routinely offered in both English and French. We didn't take a tour when we were there though.
Updated Feb 19, 2013
Address: 133 S Main St, St Martinville, LA 70582
Phone: (337) 394-6021
Built on the site of a previous church, St. Martin de Tours Catholic Church is the fourth oldest church building in the state of Louisiana, and is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, as is the entire historic center of St. Martinville.
It is considered to be the "mother church" of the Acadians, those French settlers who were driven from Canada by the British and relocated to the swamps of Louisiana beginning in the 1760s.
More often visited than the church itself is a small graveyard at the back of the building. There stands a simple, but lovely, statue of Evangeline - the heroine of Longellow's epic poem. There also is a tombstone to Emmeline LaBiche, said by locals to have been the true Evangeline. (I have entered a separate tip for this graveyard.)
Written Mar 24, 2012
Address: 201 Evangeline Blvd
This tip is intended to give a few views of the grounds of the Longfellow - Evangeline State Historic Park.
The first two photos show the garden and grounds of the Maison Olivier, and were taken from the porch or veranda. It's easy to imagine the Creole landowners sipping a cool libation of some sort, living the life of the rich, while surveying the surroundings from here. As with other places we visited during our read trip through the Gulf States, we enjoyed the grand scale and interesting shapes of the southern live oak trees, many of which are hundreds of years old.
The final two images shown with this tip demonstrate the stark contrast of the living conditions of the Acadians, those French-speaking folks who had been forcibly ejected from their homes in Canada's Maritime Provinces to re-settle along the Bayou Teche in the mid 1700s.
Further along is an Acadian Farmstead, but I did not walk to that area due to the season, and the lateness of the hour.
Written Mar 24, 2012
An example of Creole architecture, this raised cottage (or mansion) makes for an interesting tour. The plantation house was built by Charles DuClozel Olivier around 1815. It was renovated in 1845, and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.
The plantation was prosperous under Oliver who had converted its main crop from cattle and indigo to sugar. Much sugar is grown in the region to this day.
The building was constructed of local materials such as brick made from clay of the nearby Bayou Teche, a mud and moss mixture called "bousillage" on the walls of the upper floor, and cypress wood. Home furnishings are authentic period pieces, but none were originally used in the Olivier home.
Access to the home is by park ranger-led tour. Our tour group was small and most somewhat knowledgeable about regional history. Their questions and comments gave our tour leader a chance to show her stuff, and made for an interesting and enlightening visit.
Written Mar 24, 2012
Statue in St. Martinville, Louisiana, honoring Evangeline, the title heroine of an epic poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and all those Acadians who had been uprooted from Nova Scotia and settled in this region. For those unfamiliar with Longfellow's poem Evangeline, Wikipedia provides the following plot synopsis:
"Evangeline describes the betrothal of a fictional Acadian girl named Evangeline Bellefontaine to her beloved, Gabriel Lajeunesse, and their separation as the British deport the Acadians from Acadie in the Great Upheaval. The poem then follows Evangeline across the landscapes of America as she spends years in a search for him, at some times being near to Gabriel without realizing he was near. Finally she settles in Philadelphia and, as an old woman, works as a Sister of Mercy among the poor. While tending the dying during an epidemic she finds Gabriel among the sick, and he dies in her arms."
Longfellow's friend and fellow poet, Nathaniel Hawthorne, brought the story to his attention as he (Hawthorne) did not intend to use it himself. Whether or not there actually was an Evangeline can be debated forever. It is likely that separations similar to that of the poem did occur, and Longfellow's work certainly reminds us of the hardships faced by those forced from their Nova Scotia homes to the swamps of what we know as Louisiana.
Updated Mar 1, 2012
I wonder if there is a more photographed live oak tree in the world.
According to legend (or to fact according to the locals), this ancient live oak tree on the bank of the Bayou Teche marks the spot where Emmeline Labiche, said to be the inspiration for Longellow's epic poem Evangeline, landed after her long trip from Nova Scotia. It was also here she learned of the impending marriage of her lover to another.
It is a lovely spot, and a stately tree. The stately building in the background of the main photo is the Old Castillo Hotel, now a popular Bed and Breakfast.
Written Mar 1, 2012
This oak is said to be the one where the legendary meeting took place between Emmeline Lebiche and Louis Arceneaus, the real life people on whom Longfellow's poem "Evangeline" was based. It is said to be one of the South's most famous and most photographed trees.
In the picture, the park around the tree is decorated for Christmas.
Updated Apr 4, 2011
The tour guide lady at the Olivier house in the State Historical Park was quite adamant that there was no place local worth eating at except Possums, and the mom of the little girl said the same. So, as it was getting on towards 12:20, we set off to find it. It is a bit toward the New Iberia side of town on Louisiana route 31.
They have a $4.95 lunch Sunday to Friday - 28 choices. The guide warned us that if we got a salad, it would be $1.00 more, so we didn't get one. They have a similar dinner menu for $8.95. They also serve margaritas - chocolate, white chocolate, sour apple, raspberry and cosmopolitan and the waitress said they had available just about anything that we would want to drink .
Favorite Dish: Bob got a stuffed catfish with melted butter, a roll, a baked potato and rice (they give you a roll and rice with everything), and I got "Puff n Stuff" which was a puff pastry stuffed with shrimp, crab and crawfish au gratin, and a stuffed potato (which I would have called twice baked) a roll and rice.
According to the American individual website/review the dish ".. is named after HR Puff N stuff... Let me try to tell you what this dish is all about. 16 layers of this ultra pastry flake crust with the cheese sauce and crabmeat crawfish and shrimp with the 16 more layers on top baked in the sweetest cheese sauce. I dare you to be able to eat half of it without the cholesteral patrol coming to beat you over the heads with billy clubs made of carrots and celery stalks."
Total before tip was $14.00 included iced tea for each of us.
Other possible $4.95 lunches include fried shrimp, broiled shrimp, fried catfish, crab cake, stuffed bell pepper, fried crawfish, half n' half crawfish (half etouffee and half fried), voodoo chicken, fried chicken fingers, grilled chicken breast, grilled catfish, baked stuffed shrimp, seafood au gratin, crawfish bisque, crawfish etouffee, your choice gumbo, seafood stuffed potato, crawfish or chicken or shrimp or chicken AND shrimp fettuccine, grilled chicken salad, grilled shrimp salad, grilled chicken n' shrimp salad, shrimp salad and seafood salad.
Updated Apr 28, 2013
Address: 1007 Little Oak Drive
Phone: (337) 394-3233
Good South Louisiana home -cooked food at low prices.
Favorite Dish: Smothered chicken with rice and gravy, for example.
Written May 30, 2004
Address: 116 S. Main
Favorite thing: St. Martinville is about 2 hours or so west of New Orleans near Lafayette, Louisiana. St. Martin de Tours Catholic Church is one of the oldest chruches in Louisiana. It was built in 1836 on the location of the church that the Acadians constructed after settling in Louisiana.
Fondest memory: A co-worker told me of the church, so as I was in a nearby town for Christmas, I arranged to attend midnight mass at St. Martin de Tours Catholic Church. It sits on several acres of land and was decorated in white lights to the hilt. The church itself is beautiful and includes old pews with doors. I am told that in the past, families purchased (or purchased the right) to use the pews. It even has chandeliers. The church is located on Maine St. in St. Martinville - you can't miss it.
1st pictures are from Christmas 2006 in the daylight. The following pictures are from Christmas 2007 at night.
Updated Dec 31, 2007