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date: 07 October 2022

The Historic Cemeteries of New Orleanslocked

The Historic Cemeteries of New Orleanslocked

  • Peter B. DedekPeter B. DedekTexas State University

Summary

With unique aboveground tombs, massive walls of burial vaults, and a density of historic funerary structures found nowhere else in the United States, the cemeteries of New Orleans are among the most fascinating and historic aspects of the city. The cemeteries reflect the unique climate, history, and culture of New Orleans. Although New Orleans cemeteries share characteristics with burial grounds in Mediterranean and many Latin American countries, such historic “cities of the dead” are rare in the United States. Four major factors guided the evolution of the New Orleans cemetery: (a) the high South Louisiana water table; (b) a need to conserve land in a growing city surrounded by water; (c) French, Spanish, and Caribbean traditions of aboveground burial and tomb building; and (d) neoclassical and Victorian architectural fashions that prevailed during the 19th century, the period during which the cemeteries as we know them developed. New Orleans’ burial traditions contrasted with the predominantly underground interments in the cemeteries of northern Europe, England, and the United States apart from the Gulf Coast. Because of this, tourists often marvel at the exotic nature of the historic New Orleans cemeteries, expressing many of the same impressions and reactions to their architecture, layout, and general character as their 19th-century forbears. New Orleanians also value their unique historic cemeteries, most of which are still active burial grounds.

Subjects

  • Late 19th-Century History
  • Cultural History
  • Southern History

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