Saturday, April 13, 2013

Lafayette Cemetery, New Orleans

When we think of cemeteries we usual think of the creepy , scary, dark place from the horror films. But actually cemeteries can be a peaceful place, full of history and architectural gems. 
I can think of no better example than Lafayette Cemetery in New Orleans. 
One can spend hours here, exploring and delving into the rich history.
Lafayette Cemetery was established in 1833 in what is now known as the Garden District for
 "Les Americaines" (the Americans). In 1833, this area was known as the city of Lafayette.
 It was part of the Livaudais plantation which was subdivided into city squares in 1832.
 This city square was acquired from Cornelius Hurst and the cemetery was laid 
out by the city surveyor Benjamin Buisson.

There are a number of different burial traditions practiced within the cemetery, 
each with their own unique origins...

Family Tombs

 These are the tombs which are most common in the cemetery and bring rise to the belief that above-ground burial is due directly to the city's inherent water problems. In fact this style originated in the Mediterranean region thousands of years ago and was introduced to 
New Orleans and other New World colonies by the French and Spanish. Tombs, mausoleums 
and other raised, non-earthen, burial styles are common in most regions of the world with 
a strong Latin, Roman Catholic tradition.

When there is large number of names on a tomb, a technique called 
"unlimited interment" is employed. 

Once a coffin or casket is placed into a tomb or other interment vehicle, it is sealed with brick 
and mortar or covered with soil. In the case of vaults and family tombs, a  process of
 laying a simple brick "wall" before the vault entrance. After the minimum period has 
gone by, (usually "one year and one day", based upon Judeo-Christian mourning rituals), 
the vehicle may be re-used, if needed, by simply removing the seal, 
separating the human remains from what is left of the casket , 
and replacing the remains back into the tomb 
(either pushed to the rear of the vault, or placed in the bottom). 

Cremation was an early form of preparing the dead for burial. The shape of the container in 
which the ashes were placed may have taken the form of a simple box or a marble vase, 
but no matter what it looked like it was called an "urn," 
derived from the Latin uro, meaning "to burn."
As burial became a more common-practice, the urn continued to be closely 
associated with death. The urn is commonly believed to testify to the death 
of the body and the dust into which the dead body will change, 
while the spirit of the departed eternally rests with God.

The cloth draping the urn symbolically guarded the ashes. 
The shroud-draped urn is believed by some to mean that the soul has departed 
the shrouded body for its trip to heaven. Others say that the drape 
signifies the last partition between life and death.

The inverted torch is a true cemetery symbol, symbolizing a life extinguished.

Chalmette Fire Co # 23 

This is author Ann Rice's Family tomb, made famous by the movie Interview with a Vampire 
starring Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise.

The organization of the Society for the Relief of Destitute Orphan Boys, 
caring for white male orphans, had its origin around 1824.

A tomb for a member of the "Woodmen Of The World ", - the largest fraternal benefit society with open membership in the United States, Woodmen of the World was founded in Omaha, Nebraska, by Joseph Cullen Root on June 6, 1890.

Records show that 7,849 people died in New Orleans in 1853 due to yellow fever. 
Although this year represents the highest single-year figures, death tolls in previous 
and subsequent years throughout the 19th century often approached the levels of 1853. 
The total between 1817 and 1905 was in excess of 41,000. Studies will also show that 
the vast majority of victims were of immigrant stock; as yellow fever is a viral infection, 
previous infection by a less deadly strain would mostly serve to inoculate against 
future infection. For this reason it was mistakenly believed that African-Americans 
were immune to the infection, while in fact it was simply because they had 
inhabited the region for generations and had developed immunities.

Many people die at twenty five
and aren't buried
until they are seventy five.
-Benjamin Franklin

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