Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Le tombeau de Marie Laveau

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1
Basin Street
New Orleans, Louisiana

Among the most important cemeteries in the American South is the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. Established in 1789, just after a disastrous fire and calamitous epidemics left the original St. Peters Street Cemetery filled, this cemetery continues to be used on occasion, though it is mostly filled. It is the resting place of numerous well-known New Orleanians including the famous "Voudou Priestess," Marie Laveau (1794-1881).

Marie Laveau's tomb, 1999. Photo by jclarson,
courtesy of Wikipedia.

Most of the cemetery here is built above ground. A quote from architect Benjamin Latrobe (who is also buried here) notes that the graves are mostly above ground because of the very high water table. There is some indication that the case is more due to Spanish and French burial traditions. Here these family tombs are reused. A family member would be placed in a wooden coffin and then sealed into one of the shelf-like tombs. After at least a year and a day, the remains would be removed and pushed to the back of the tomb, while the coffin would be burned or reused. The name of the deceased would also be added to a marble plaque sealing the tomb. Therefore, these tombs could hold many people. The Wikipedia article on the cemetery states that some 100,000 people are buried on this acre of land, though I would question that source.
A marvelous engraving showing a Victorian All Saints Day
in one of the cemeteries in New Orleans. All Saints Day in New
Orleans--Decorating the Tombs in One of the City Cemeteries,
by John Durkin, published in Harper's Weekly, November 1885.

The tomb of the Glapion family, where Marie Laveau may be buried, has become one of the most famous monuments in this cemetery and the story has been told that drawing three Xs on the tomb can be the source of good luck. Courtney Mroch of the wonderful paranormal travel blog, Haunt Jaunts, has addressed this legend in a marvelous article. There is some doubt as to whether Madame Laveau is really buried in this tomb.


Historic Preservation Program, U. of Pennsylvania. "Burial Custom."
     St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. Accessed 23 August 2011.
Historic Preservation Program, U. of Pennsylvania. "Historic Overview."

     St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. Accessed 23 August 2011.
Marie Laveau. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 23 August
Mroch, Courtney. "The Xs on Marie Laveau's Tomb: Vandalism or Voodoo?"
     Haunt Jaunts. 23 August 2011.
St. Louis CemeteryWikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 23 August


1 comment:

  1. Hey! You weren't kidding! You really DID mention me. THANKS!!!!