Monday, 14 November 2011

Cemetery Tour

A row of family vaults dating back to the mid 1700's.  There are approximately 40 such cemetery's in NO - often referred to as cities of the 'dead'.  Several generations of family members would be interred in these vaults.  This cemetery is still in use today.
These are crypts lining the wall around St. Louis Cemetery.  The main family vault could not be reopened for another burial until one year and one day after the last burial.  This presented a problem when scourges hit the city - the worst of which was yellow fever back in these days - the worst being in the mid 1800's.  With multiple deaths in a family - what to do - well they were temporarily parked in these wall crypts until such time when the family vault could be reopened to properly place them in their family's resting place.  I can't imagine the process of opening these vaults - but I guess all soft tissue would be decomposed - leaving only bones - which were packaged and move to the back or center of the vault leaving room for the new burial!  Vaults are never opened on the anniversary of the last burial - that is why 1 year + 1 day is the rule!

A wall crypt - where the person has never been moved - but descendents still visit and decorate the spot!

Another section of wall crypts that is deteriorating.  If families do not restore the sites - they will deteriorate!

An interesting plaque in the Protestant section of St. Lewis - a lot of history and information is included on this plaque.

Side by side restored crypt and some deteriorating ones!

An interment as recent as 2010 - saying "Her body lies where her family has lain since the 1700's"

The vault belonging to the family of Marie Lavore - the well known Voodoo practitioner!  Voodoo was a regularly practiced religion in the area and is still practiced today.

An interesting anecdote - the lady who practiced a form of Voodooism in Salem, Massachusettes in the 1700's set in motion the Witchcraft persecutions that happened over a period of 8 months in 1692 (We visited Salem earlier in our travels).  Voodooism was feared and distrusted in the New England States - far different from the culture and practices that prevailed and were accepted in the New Orleans area.

The New and the Old!

A Society Vault - meaning that it is dedicated to either a certain group - like the French, the Italians or the Germans etc.  Or to a particular activity - this society vault is to commemorate Veterans!  So qualifying Veterans would be interred here rather than in a family vault.

The Old and the New again!

While in NOLA (New Orleans, LA) we took 4 guided tours - one of which was the St. Louis (St. Louis Parish in the French Quarter) #1 Cemetery tour - the oldest in NO.  NOLA was founded in 1718 and very quickly the residents realized they had a problem with burying their deceased loved ones.  Due to the very high water table (NOLA is below sea level) they would no sooner dig a grave than it would fill with water.  And if they did manage to bury a coffin in the ground - the frequent floods that ravaged the area meant that coffins and/or corpses were often washed up out of their final resting place!  Hence the above ground crypts or vaults.  Families would have their vaults built with the intention that they would house all family interments for generations to come.  Now cremation was not permitted at this time - the majority of people were Roman Catholic - but once placed in the vault or crypt - a form of natural cremation would occur (high summer temperatures in NOLA).  Later, after the Louisiana Purchase in 1804 - Americans moved into the area - many of whom were Protestant - to co-mingle with the Creole population - who were of blended heritage - French, Italian, German, Canadian Acadians, and Afro Caribbean.  The Americans' were interred in a segregated part of the cemetery.

No comments:

Post a Comment