New Orleans Cemeteries
New Orleans cemeteries are particularly striking features of this already unique city in the South. Just as with all of the rest of its customs and traditions, it seems as though New Orleans simply has no regard for the way the rest of the country does things. The unique mixture of the multicultural heritage of the city, the laissez-faire lifestyle of its citizens, the penchant for grandiose accommodations among the city’s elite, and the high water table and soil subsidence of the land itself make for an interesting situation when it comes to burying the dead.
There is a reason why New Orleans cemetery tours are as popular as they have become. There are some 42 New Oreleans cemeteries, each one offering a range of historical accounts for how it came to be built and who is buried there. From the oldest and most enigmatic like St Louis Cemetery to new ones like the major cemetery in Metairie, as morbid as it may sound, touring the grounds of the local cemeteries is a fascinating experience that allows you to get an inside glimpse of the various customs and European-inspired above-ground tombs for which the city has become well known.
New Orleans cemeteries are often referred to as Cities of the Dead. If you get a chance to take one of the New Orleans cemetery tours you will be struck by the complexity and intricacy of many of the statues, tombs, and gravesites. The sun bleached tombs and statues are a hallmark of nearly all of the cemeteries. As in most of the rest of the city, you will also find wrought iron fences and gates that guard family plots. At many of the cemeteries, these plots resemble little houses guarded by gates. St Louis Cemetery is a perfect example of a traditional New Orleans cemetery, and one of the most famous.
Although many would argue that the main reason New Orleans buries most of its dead above ground is because of the unworkable high water table issues. But historians of the city will also explain that the reasons for burying people in this way were informed by the customs of Spain and France that translated over to the everyday customs and habits of this multicultural city. When it was found that caskets would literally float and rise up out of the ground during heavy rains and flooding, the obvious response was to bury people in the manner in which they were buried in many of the residents’ home countries. Certain older cemeteries like the three that comprise St Louis Cemetery resemble landmarks like Pere Lachaise in Paris. The New Orleans Cemetery, Roch Cemetery, and the St. Vincent de Paul Cemeteries are all examples of historic sites that you may encounter on one of the New Orleans cemetery tours.
Perhaps touring New Orleans cemeteries is not for everyone, but for those who love history and get into finding out how cities in the relatively young country of the United States took their customs from our European counterparts, they are well worth the time and actually in turn give you a much better understanding of the layout of the city.