Friday, April 12, 2013

Saturday Snapshot


Saturday Snapshots is hosted by Alyce at At Home With Books.

I mentioned recently that I would do a more detailed post on our visit to a New Orleans cemetery.

Saint Louis Cemetery is the name of three Roman Catholic cemeteries in New Orleans, Louisiana. 

We went to St. Louis # 3 located 2 miles (3.2 km) from the French Quarter, about 30 blocks from the Mississippi. T Those entombed include ragtime composer Paul Sarebresole, photographer E. J. Bellocq and painter Ralston Crawford.

The tombs of the New Orleans restaurateur families of Tujague, Prudhomme, and Galatoire lay near to one another in the "Chef's Corner." The wealthy and well-known, such as famed architect James Gallier, has a monument here as does the United Slavonian Benevolent Society.

Formerly known as Bayou Cemetery, St. Louis No. 3 was created in 1848 on the high stretch of land known as the Esplanade Ridge. Reverend G. L. Duquesnay bought the land to be used as a cemetery for the St. Louis Cathedral after an outbreak of yellow fever. The cemetery had three main aisles and four smaller alee's (aisles). In 1865, the depth of the burial grounds was extended to provide for less crowding. This cemetery is larger than both St. Louis Nos. 1 and 2 combined.

This is a recent burial.

Here's a close-up this grave with some of the deceased's favourite items, including a ball cap, hot sauce and a beer.

New Orleans has always respected its dead, but this isn't the reason that loved ones are interred above ground. 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 very high. Dig a few feet down, and the grave becomes soggy, filling with water. The casket will literally float.
The early settlers tried 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.

Eventually, New Orleans' graves were kept above ground, following the Spanish custom of using vaults. The walls of some cemeteries here are made of economical vaults stacked on top of one another, while wealthier families could afford the larger, ornate tombs with crypts. Many family tombs look like miniature houses, complete with iron fences.

How can a tomb hold all of those coffins? According to a local ordinance, as long as the previously deceased family member has been dead for at least two years, the remains of that person can be moved to a specially made burial bag and placed at the side or back of the vault. The coffin is then destroyed, and the vault is now ready for a newly deceased family member. What happens if a family member dies within that two-year period? Generally, local cemeteries are equipped with temporary holding vaults, and the newly deceased family member is moved into his or her final resting place when two years have elapsed.

This photo depicts the holding area.

The cemetery was heavily flooded during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but its tombs escaped relatively unscathed. There was some plaster damage from debris.


  1. Intriguing cemeteries! I've seen some of these in movies set in New Orleans, but it must be great to be there in person.

    Thanks for sharing...and here's MY SATURDAY SNAPSHOT POST

  2. I now have this visual of graves popping out of water-logged soil that will haunt my dreams for weeks!!
    Fascinating - thanks.

  3. Wow. These are some terrific photos, showing me a place I've never seen. Here's Mine

  4. That's kind of amazing and kind of wildly creepy! Thanks for the history behind the reason for this kind of cemetery.

  5. Such a fascinating post Jackie, I always enjoy a walk through a cemetery. Interesting the different problems encountered in New Orleans.

  6. I knew about the custom they have there, but it still seems so strange to me, even though necessary. I hadn't heard about the two year period and the holding area though. Thanks for sharing such an informative post!


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