Cities of the Dead: New Orleans Cemeteries


New Orleans Cemeteries

By TurtlesTravel

  • Saint Roch's Cemetery #1

    By TurtlesTravel

  • Saint Roch Chapel

    By TurtlesTravel

  • Oddities inside Saint Roch Chapel

    By TurtlesTravel

  • Cool camera inside Saint Roch Chapel

    By TurtlesTravel

  • One of the stations of the cross

    By TurtlesTravel

  • Mausoleums

    By TurtlesTravel

  • Statue on top of a mausoleum

    By TurtlesTravel

  • Saint Roch's #1

    By TurtlesTravel

  • Poor Fella

    By TurtlesTravel

  • Saint Louis Cemetery

    By TurtlesTravel

    The oldest cemetery in New Orleans

  • Marie Laveau's resting place

    By TurtlesTravel

  • Mausoleum Paint

    By TurtlesTravel

  • Saint Louis Cemetery Palm

    By TurtlesTravel

  • Book left at one mausoleum

    By TurtlesTravel

  • Only in New Orleans

    By TurtlesTravel

  • Statue in Saint Louis Cemetery

    By TurtlesTravel

The first things that come to mind when thinking of New Orleans are usually Mardi Gras, drinking to excess on Bourbon Street and maybe Jazz Fest or beignets at Cafe du Monde. These may be part of the experience, but there are some interesting places to explore outside the French Quarter too. New Orleans Cemeteries are just such places.

New Orleans Cemeteries

We’re find visiting cemeteries fascinating no matter where we are traveling, and New Orleans cemeteries are truly unique. When a city is built on a swamp, the deceased must be buried in above-ground mausoleums and crypts. This is the case with New Orleans cemeteries. (This also follows French and Spanish tradition) The seemingly endless rows of structures, each decorated a little differently from the last, remind people of neighborhoods. As such, they have come to be referred to as “Cities of the Dead.” While we didn’t have time on this visit to see more than a few, There are some great lists and maps out there to start your own exploration. The non-profit Save Our Cemeteries, which works to promote, preserve and protect New Orleans Cemeteries, offers tours if you’d like a bit more information and guidance.

St Louis #1

St. Louis Cemetery

St. Louis Cemetery #1 is probably the most famous of the New Orleans cemeteries. It’s also the oldest, founded in 1789. Located not far from the French Quarter (walking distance) in the Treme neighborhood, this cemetery is the burial place of the “Voodoo Queen” Marie Laveau. Her crypt is marked with many sets of three X’s made by visitors who have come to pay their respects and ask for favors. There were also small offerings like beads, a tie, plastic figures set up in front of the tomb. Eerie. Many other well-known New Orleans figures are buried here as well, including political and business figures, socialites and entertainers. Keep an eye out for a blue musical note, encircled by a cross atop one tomb for New Orleans musicians. St. Louis Cemetery #1 is also included on the Louisiana African American Heritage trail. The first African American mayor of New Orleans has his final resting place here. Just a few blocks away, St. Louis Cemetery #2 is well worth a visit. A number of famous jazz and blues musicians are buried here. St. Louis Cemetery #3 is about two miles away, but has some of the most elaborate tombs of the three. It was built on a leper colony, and contains over 10,000 burial sites and 3000 wall vaults!

St Roch #1

St. Roch

St. Roch will lure you in with its haunting features. We spent over an hour wandering among the columned crypts, studying the statuary on top of the tombs, looking at dates and names, peering through fences and following the stations of the cross in the cemetery’s corners. One of the most interesting spots is a small room inside the chapel. The floor is lined with bricks inscribed with messages of Thank You and Merci. The room is filled with thank you notes, braces and crutches, and plaster models of hands, feet, brains and other organs.These offerings and remembrances are left in gratitude for answered prayers. We wondered especially about an old camera, decorated with glitter, but well-worn. Also in this room is a heart, set halfway up the wall. On it you can see a distinct line marking how high the water rose after Hurricane Katrina. St. Roch #2 is right across the street and has some cool tiled mosaics of saints around the perimeter.

Also worth a visit:

Lafayette Cemetery #1, located in the Garden District. Non-denominational and non-segregated, this cemetery houses the remains of immigrants from 25 countries and residents of 26 states. There are a number of connections to the Ann Rice Vampire Chronicles series, including some filming that took place here.

Metarie Cemetery, formerly a racetrack, this space was converted into a cemetery after the Civil War. It’s sprawling, and feels more rural than other New Orleans cemeteries.

 

About the author

Tamara and Donny have wandered together since 2004, with no cure for their insatiable wanderlust. They write about discovering new destinations including beautiful photography, plus budget travel tips and how to give back through travel.