The Graveyards of New Orleans

By Renee Sylvestre-Williams

Halloween, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day all are occasions  to remember and celebrate the dead. It’s a time we spend in cemeteries cleaning up the graves of our loved ones. It’s also a time to wander through the cemetery, reading the epitaphs of those buried and admiring some of the elaborate tombstones and mausoleums.

Cemeteries have become tourist destinations— witness the constant desecration of Jim Morrison’s grave in Paris’ Pere Lachaise Cemetery, the Discovery Walk through Mt. Pleasant cemetery — and none more popular than the cemetery tours of New Orleans’ grave yards.

The New Orleans mausoleums allowed people to buried above the ground. Lore says it was to prevent flooding, or perhaps because burying the dead above ground in the mausoleums means the bodies can decompose faster in the heat, so that multiple family members can be buried in the same space. Whatever the reason, graveyard tours of New Orleans remain popular.

This gallery features the graveyard in the Garden District. I was there last October for Halloween and wandered through the cemetery. Apart from the sense of age, there was a quiet eeriness to the place (aside: I am not a fan of cemeteries). Those who could afford to went big. Those who couldn’t had smaller crypts. Some were very old and looked abandoned, while others had so many people buried in them that they had to add extra marble slabs to accommodate the names.

Photos courtesy of Renee Sylvestre-Williams and Gail McInnes

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