I enjoy exploring cemeteries but this one is unique. There is a room in the chapel dedicated to healing and those in need of healing. It has braces, prosthetics
the walls are covered with a lavish, decaying collection of cast-off prosthetics, anatomical-themed votive, and crutches, accented by casually draped rosaries; the floor ..among the pennies, candles, crucifixes, hand-scribbled notes, and "thank-you" bricks. Some think this is morbidly or interesting. At the very least I felt it was unique. At one time there was more in the room and you could actually go in ... now you can't so I assume there was theft or vandalism.
We had read the cemeteries are not safe to explore on our own and this was the only cemetery I felt nervous about our safety as it is in a questionable area and no other tourist there. The other cemeteries have so many tourists and tours moving in and out .. you can just follow them. Since it was so quiet .. it was a bit creepy and when we heard a sound from another row .. we were a bit concerned. Luckily was another cemetery nut.
In the hot, humid climate of southern Louisiana, where the water table lies just a few feet below the surface, people cannot be buried. Some other method had to be devised.
The body of the deceased is set inside the stone monument, where it decomposes in the heat. In accordance with rules stipulated by the Catholic Church, they lie there for a year and a day. Then, the monument is opened, and the remains are tossed into the pit below. This way, room is available for the next one. If the next member of that family dies before the place is available, then the body is placed into one of the temporary spots on the side.
Families purchase these, and use them for generation after generation. The remains of dozens may be inside one of these.
In a city below sea level, with a very high water table, cemeteries are unique. As buried wooden coffins will frequently float to the surface, cemeteries were designed with above ground stone and marble tombs. Some of the grave sites in the old cemeteries are spectacular.
Even modern cemeteries are built above ground in the city. In the Lower 9th Ward, I drove by an above ground cemetery where it looked like at least 25% of the tombs had broken open and the coffins had floated away. I guess you can't plan for everything.
New Orleans has many "above ground" cemeteries in town due to the fact that much of the city is at or below sea level. this one is just North of the French Quarter. Do not go here alone at night it is not in a good neighborhood.
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
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.
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.
On our Garden District Tour they took us to Lafayette Cemetery. (if anyone had seen the movie Double Jepordy with Ashley Judd - that is the cemetery and they showed us where she was).
It was intresting to hear how they do things here. For example they put the person who passed away in a coffin and put you in the vault for one year and one day. The New Orleans sun makes the body turn into ash. After that year and day they take out the casket and put the ashes in the bottom of the vault. So if you ever buy someones burial vault you can not move the ashes. So there is many familys combined in there we were told.
Also one weekend out of the year they have a cookout in the cemetery while they clean up the family vaults. Strange I know!! There were many of them that were run down.
Some of the graves are buried under ground as that is how they wanted or believe it should be. How they did that was they had dirt in cement that was raised from the ground, then they buried the loved ones in that dirt.
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.
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.