When we went to visit Roy’s parents grave at St. Vincent dePaul Cemetery #1 this week I spent some time walking through the cemetery. I’ve always loved cemeteries with old graves in them. Of course, I took pictures throughout to share here since a lot of our followers are not from this area and have different burial places than we do. The St. Vincent de Paul Cemeteries were established in 1859 and many of the graves had death dates in the latter part of that century. This cemetery is pretty representative of most of the styles of graves/tombs in New Orleans.
One reason that our cemeteries are different is that burial plots are shallow in New Orleans because the water table is very high. Dig a few feet down, and the grave becomes soggy, filling with water. The casket will literally float.
I did some reading up on these old New Orleans cemeteries and found that the cemeteries of New Orleans are often called “cities of the dead.” Not only do the tombs look like buildings, but the cemeteries are organized with streets (and street signs) much like the cities of the living. I know that my dad’s grave is on Pecan Street in his cemetery!
Here’s an interesting tidbit. You might wonder how we can bury more than one family member in a vault, like Roy’s parents which is in the picture below? How can a tomb hold all of those coffins? According to a local ordinance, as long as the previously deceased family member has been dead for at least two years, the remains of that person can be moved to a specially made burial bag and placed at the side or back of the vault. The coffin is then destroyed, and the vault is now ready for a newly deceased family member. What happens if a family member dies within that two-year period? Generally, local cemeteries are equipped with temporary holding vaults, and the newly deceased family member is moved into his or her final resting place when two years have elapsed.
Because of the age of this cemetery and most cemeteries in New Orleans you will see both beautifully maintained burial plots/tombs/vaults and those in disrepair. There are cemeteries in New Orleans much older than this one and those are really interesting! This portion of the cemetery is dedicated to housing the bodies of Catholic Nuns. It is very nicely maintained.
The nun’s graves looking forward from the back of that area. These are less expensive burial “wall vaults.”The same rules apply about putting a newly dead body in after the one before has been dead at least two years.
These raised rectangular graves are what most graves are like in the old New Orleans cemeteries. They are called copings. .Oddly the section of this cemetery where the priests are buried is not nearly as pristine as the nun’s burial section.
The rest of these photos I took while roaming through the cemetery.
Everyone knows Boudreaux is a famous cajun last name. I had to take a picture of this nameplate!
I don’t know if this is unusual but we have indoor burial vaults like the ones below.
We live on the Northshore of Lake Ponchatrain. Our water levels are different here so our coffins are buried in the ground. I like our cemeteries over here but have always loved the uniqueness of the old New Orleans cemeteries!
Ya’ll have a Blessed week!