St. Louis Cathedral In New Orleans
One of the most iconic sights in the French Quarter of New Orleans is St. Louis Cathedral. Located on Jackson Square, the cathedral’s three spires, with the Andrew Jackson statue in the foreground, is among the most widely recognized views from the French Quarter due to its heavy use in TV shows and movies.
St. Louis Cathedral is known as the oldest Roman Catholic Cathedral, in terms of continuous use, in the U.S. It is situated between the Presbytere, a former courthouse, and the Cabildo, the site of the Louisiana Purchase signing.
The original cathedral featured a brick between posts style of construction, which was commonly used until the middle of the 19th century in New Orleans. The current version of the cathedral is best known for its iconic three spires. They are comprised of a taller central spire with two shorter ones on each side. In 1819 a bell tower with a clock was added onto the church. It was obtained from a clockmaker in New Orleans and brought from Paris, France. The clock in the bell tower still chimes every hour.
The St. Louis Cathedral was built in dedication to Louis IX King of France. It is the mother church for the Archdiocese of New Orleans. In 1721 Adrien De Pauger, a French engineer, chose the site of the church but he died before the construction was done. The original building lasted until 1788 when it burned down during a major fire. A new church was built on the original site and reopened in 1794. During the early years, New Orleans residents of all classes attended services, were married, baptized and given burial rites in the cathedral.
In 1850 the cathedral was completely rebuilt. The reconstruction did not feature much of the previous building’s brick and mortar. It brought the church more in line with the area’s surrounding buildings which featured a blend of Greek Revival, Parisian, and Creole architecture. Works of art inside of the cathedral include a gilded altar and ten stained-glass windows of scenes that depict Louis IX’s life. The Cathedral sustained hurricane damage in both 1915 and 2005.
Many well-known people have visited the Cathedral of St. Louis over the years. During the early years, Spanish and French governors worshiped at the cathedral. Andrew Jackson paid a visit to New Orleans in 1840, where he defeated the British in 1815 during the Battle of New Orleans. There was a ceremony held in his honor at St. Louis Cathedral. In 1847 President Zachary Taylor visited the Cathedral and attended services there. In 1987 Pope John Paul II traveled to the Cathedral, in one of the most historic visits ever witnessed at St. Louis Cathedral. After the pope’s visit, the status of the Cathedral was elevated to Basilica.
Visiting St. Louis Cathedral
Visitors may tour the interior of the cathedral when there are no weddings, funerals, or services in progress. At the entrance, you can obtain a brochure for a small donation and then go on a self-guided tour. There are docent-led tours as well, but there is not a regular schedule for them.
As you are walking through the church you can enjoy the numerous works of art and listen to the organ music. The cathedral’s stained-glass windows, depicting the life of St. Louis IX, are well preserved and amazing. The rococo-style and ornate altar located in the front part of the church is also remarkable.
There is a small gift store at the church, where you can purchase religious items and souvenirs. All of the proceeds go towards the maintenance of the cathedral.
Right outside of the cathedral you can see artist displays, tarot card readers, street performers and more.
From nearby Royal Street, you can take a walk and see a lesser-known view of the back of the cathedral, where there is a very impressive marble statue which depicts Jesus Christ with his arms outstretched.
Parking can be quite challenging in New Orleans. On the street, there are some metered spaces and the French Quarter has public parking lots. There is a streetcar that runs along the riverbanks, which is the public transportation that is closest to St. Louis Cathedral.
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Also visit the best attraction of the town, the City Park.