A Tour of St. Louis Cemetery #1 in New Orleans

If you visit New Orleans, be sure to stay with Bluegreen Resorts in its comfortable and architecturally beautiful Bluegreen Club La Pension. The newly remodeled vacation property, which sits just outside of the historic French Quarter, is your gateway to all the liveliness and fun that the city has to offer. New Orleans is a city where taking a trip to the past is as easy as taking a walk: Join any of the numerous guided walking tours that will acquaint you with the elegant historic homes and public buildings, gardens, ghosts, and legends that make the Crescent City one of America’s most fascinating.

Take a tour of St. Louis Cemetery #1, and you’re likely to learn about famous New Orleans residents buried there, such as “Voodoo Queen” Marie Laveau; Benjamin Latrobe, architect of the United States Capitol building in Washington, D.C.; 19th century chess master Paul Charles Morphy; and Homer Plessy, the plaintiff in the 1896 Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson that gave rise to the unfortunate landmark “separate but equal” doctrine of racial segregation. The cemetery is also home to numerous Louisiana political figures and notable families, including the relatives of French Impressionist painter Edgar Degas.

The distinctive and ornately wrought tombs in this, the city’s most famous permanent resting place, offer plenty to interest architectural enthusiasts. Since the water table in New Orleans is so high, early settlers found that graves in its “cities of the dead” often flooded. In order to protect the remains of their ancestors, New Orleans residents constructed distinctive above-ground tombs and marble mausoleums. Many members of the same family may be buried together in a single tomb. A body is often laid on the top level of its tomb, and heat and humidity result in natural cremation. After the traditional waiting period of a year and a day, the remains may be moved to another part of the tomb (the coffin having meanwhile disintegrated or been destroyed) in order to make room for another family member.

Visitors and locals alike are especially attracted to the tomb of Marie Laveau who, according to legend, has the ability to grant wishes to the living. Her tomb is distinguished by the number of “X” marks etched into the masonry. Tradition has it that by marking an “X,” turning around three times, knocking on the tomb, and calling out a wish, one can contact the priestess’ spirit.

Located on Basin Street within walking distance of the French Quarter, St. Louis Cemetery #1 is one of New Orleans’ oldest monuments. Its many close-set tombs and mausoleums, and its twisting turns, can make it dangerous to visit alone at night. Stay safe from would-be thieves by going with a group.