Images of the Month Gallery

October . . . the month when we feel the first, longed for touches of Fall; when we can stop cutting the grass every weekend, turn off the air-conditioners, and open the windows. The month, too, when our perennial hopes that the New Orleans Saints will finally head toward the play-offs begin to fade once again.

And the month of Halloween. In honor of that holiday's traditional connotations of ghouls, ghosts, and restless spirits of the departed, we present images this month of some of New Orleans' famous cemeteries, the "cities of the dead" where the bodies are buried above the ground.

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, located between Basin, Conti, Treme, and St. Louis Streets, is New Orleans' oldest existing cemetery, opened in 1789 when an older cemetery, the St. Peter Street Cemetery (now vanished), was filled. The remains of some of the city's most famous citizens and its oldest families lie in the ancient tombs which are crowded together along circuitous aisles. Among the dead in St. Louis No. 1 are Etienne de Bore, the first mayor of New Orleans and Ernest N. "Dutch" Morial, the city's first African-American mayor; chess champion Paul Morphy; and--perhaps--voodoo queen Marie Laveau. Shown here is white-washed stucco tomb typical of the architecture throughout the cemetery, surrounded with the wrought iron for which New Orleans is famous. The photograph is from the Olivia Wassmer Collection.

There are actually three cemeteries named St. Louis in New Orleans, all operated by the Archdiocese of New Orleans. This photograph by Georges Francois Mugnier shows a "society tomb" built in 1860 in St. Louis Cemetery No. 3, which opened on Esplanade Avenue in 1854. Multi-vault society tombs, usually housing the remains of members of benevolent societies, can be found in all of New Orleans' older burial grounds.

The St. Vincent de Paul Cemeteries No. 1, 2, and 3 on Louisa St. were operated after 1857 by the legendary Spanish duelist Joseph "Pepe" Llulla, who signed this receipt for a tomb in 1883, only 5 years before his death. The receipt is from the Louisiana Division's "Rare Vertical File."

The most famous feature of the St. Roch Cemetery (1874) is its chapel, a shrine built by Father Peter Leonard Thevis, the pastor of Holy Trinity Catholic Church. In 1868, Father Thevis and his congregation prayed to St. Roch for deliverance from a yellow-fever epidemic, and Father Thevis promised to build a chapel in the saint's honor if the parishioners were spared. The prayers were answered, and Father Thevis kept his promise, building not only the shrine but also a campo santo (cemetery) to surround it. The St. Roch Chapel contains a room where supplicants over the years have placed replicas of human body parts in thanksgiving for cures attributed to the intervention of St. Roch. This photograph, showing the chapel and the entryway to the campo santo is from the Milo C. Williams Collection.

Greenwood Cemetery, along with Cypress Grove Cemetery, was built by the Firemen's Charitable and Benevolent Association, an organization of volunteer fire fighters who protected the city from conflagration prior to the organization of the New Orleans Fire Department in 1891. Founded in 1852, the cemetery includes several large monuments located at its entrance. Prominent among them is the Firemen's Monument, shown in this postcard, erected in honor of the golden anniversary of the Association.

This photograph evokes the Halloween theme of this month's gallery. If you look very closely, you will see that the man in the photo is holding a skull and other human remains are visible in the open vaults of this ruined tomb. The location of the cemetery in this Mugnier photograph is unknown, but it is illustrative of the decay into which many New Orleans cemeteries fell (and continue to fall) into over the years. The deterioration of New Orleans' historic burial grounds prompted the founding in 1974 of Save Our Cemeteries, a non-profit group dedicated to the preservation, protection, restoration of the city's most historic cemeteries. Recently, a mayoral task force has presented its recommendations for the restoration and maintenance of deteriorating city-owned cemeteries.

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