CITIES OF THE DEAD
The above-ground tombs in the cemeteries of New Orleans are often referred to as "cities of the dead." This term derived from the many family tombs that look like miniature houses complete with iron fences and the rows of tombs resemble streets. Enter their gates and you will be greeted by decorative, rusty ironwork, and blinded by the sun bleached tombs. Crosses and statues on tomb tops cast contrasting shadows adding a sense of mystery. Votive candles line tombs on holidays to remind you the Dead have living relatives that still care.
New Orleans has always respected the dead, but this isn't the reason the tombs of our departed loved ones are interred above ground. Early settlers in the area struggled with different methods to bury the dead. Burial plots are shallow in New Orleans because the water table is high. Dig a few feet down, and the grave becomes soggy, filling with water. The casket will literally float. The early settlers tried by placing stones in and on top of coffins to weigh them down and keep them underground. Unfortunately, after a rainstorm, the rising water table would literally pop the airtight coffins out of the ground. Eventually, New Orleans' graves were kept above ground following the Spanish custom of using vaults.
On your way into New Orleans from the airport, you can glimpse the newer Metairie Cemeteries. The older and more renowned cemeteries are St. Louis No. 1, 2 and 3, located near the French Quarter. Pirates, politicians and voodoo queens are buried in these cities. You will notice that flowers, votive candles and hoodoo money (coins left for favors) are left at many of the notable graves, particularly Marie Laveau, the notorious Voodoo Queen of New Orleans. Some say that individuals still practice rituals at her grave. (They say you have to turn around three times; knock three times; and make a wish.
During your next stay at Maison DuBois let us arrange a cemetery tour for you. For more information visit our links page.