Although it may seem eerie to some, walking tours at local New Orleans cemeteries is a very popular tourist attraction. New Orleanians pay the highest respect to the dead. Dating back to the 1700s, some of New Orleans’s famous residents have ornate, unique tombs that hold the secrets within their last resting place. Lafayette Cemetery is situated directly across Commander’s Palace in the Garden District and has been in many films shot in New Orleans. We can’t forget the ever popular St. Louis Cemetery #1 which is home to Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau’s grave.
Recently my husband and I toured Saint Roch Cemetery in the Faubourg Marigny/Bywater area. Somewhat off the beaten track, Saint Roch Cemetery includes a chapel built by Father Thevis. Story has it that Father Thevis prayed to Saint Roch (it was said that Saint Roch’s touch, prayers, and signing of the cross on those who were ill healed them) for protection from yellow fever and dedicated the chapel to Saint Roch in thanksgiving for those who survived the yellow fever epidemics of the 19th century. Eventually Father Thevis was also buried beneath the chapel of St. Roch cemetery.
For more than a century many have traveled to St. Roch Cemetery in New Orleans as a pilgrimage of thanksgiving by those who have been cured of an ailment. Artifacts like organ replicas, glass eyes, and prosthetic have been collected over the years after coming to St. Roch’s cemetery. We found items like plaster and ceramic replicas of organs to false teeth in a closet attached to the small chapel. We also noticed bricks inscribed with “Merci” and “Thanks” and layer of coins in the small closet.
Naturally New Orleans is known for above ground burial sites due to being located slightly below sea level. Also, above-ground burial was a common practice in both France and Spain who happen to be the early settlers of New Orleans. In the end, several generations will join each other in one final resting place.