St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, New Orleans

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, New Orleans (must see)

Quite possibly the oldest and most renowned among New Orleans' "cities of the dead", Saint Louis Cemetery Number One was established in 1789, following the devastating Great Fire of 1788, and was located just beyond the city's boundaries at the time. Due to the city's location below sea level and a high water table, the decision was made to bury bodies aboveground, as previous attempts at underground burials had resulted in caskets floating to the surface during floods.

Today, this cemetery houses more than 700 tombs and has been the final resting place for thousands of individuals. It features crypts designed by renowned architects and artists, creating a somewhat eerie labyrinth. Most of these aboveground structures are owned by families and designed to hold multiple sets of remains. While constructed primarily of brick, many of the elaborate tombs are often covered in concrete or stucco. Some of the oldest tombs have succumbed to time, reduced to little more than crumbling ruins and piles of brick dust. One intriguing feature is the segregated Protestant section, situated at the rear of the predominantly Catholic cemetery.

Among the famous residents are civil rights activist Homer Plessy (known for the landmark case Plessy v. Ferguson) and the beloved Voodoo priestess Marie Laveau. Her supposed tomb is a frequent stop on daily tours, although it's worth noting that she is believed to be actually buried in two separate tombs. Both graves bear the iconic XXX symbol, used to invoke Laveau's spirit for favors. Visitors often decorate them with Mardi Gras beads, bananas, flowers, bones, bottles of rum, and signed notes.

To enter the cemetery, tourists (those not related to the deceased) are required to be accompanied by a licensed tour guide, as mandated by the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Several organizations offer guided tours, with one of the most reputable being Save Our Cemeteries. They conduct hour-long excursions, with tours commencing from the lobby of Basin Street Station nearby.

Want to visit this sight? Check out these Self-Guided Walking Tours in New Orleans. Alternatively, you can download the mobile app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store. The app turns your mobile device to a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 on Map

Sight Name: St. Louis Cemetery No. 1
Sight Location: New Orleans, USA (See walking tours in New Orleans)
Sight Type: Attraction/Landmark
Guide(s) Containing This Sight:

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