The decaying beauty of New Orleans cemeteries, or “Cities of the Dead,” is breathtaking and otherworldly. The massive marble and brick tombs draw in the masses. The gravesites date back hundreds of years and intrigue those far and wide. The massive decaying crypts feature crumbling brick and intricate artwork that has been inscribed on the tombs. New Orleans is built below sea level on floodwaters and swamps so while there are numerous underground grave plots, there are thousands of grave sites that tower above the ground. During past high rains and flooding caskets holding the dearly departed have floated unto the streets.
People from all over the world pour in daily to walk these haunted and holy grounds. The most famous New Orleans cemeteries include Metairie Lake Lawn Cemetery, Greenwood Cemetery, St. Louis 1, 2 and 3, and Lafayette Cemetery 1, 2, and 3. Many cemetery tours go into the rich detailing of the many fascinating tombs and artwork throughout the graveyards.
St. Louis Cemetery #1
Notably, the most famous and haunted cemetery in Nola is St. Louis Cemetery #1. St. Louis cemetery has laid to rest over 100,000 souls and dated back to 1789! St. Louis Cemetery is the oldest known cemetery in New Orleans and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places!
I’ve visited the Voodoo Queen of the South, Marie Laveau’s, gravesite on numerous occasions. Her tomb is always surrounded with offerings, and it is inscribed with multiples of xxx. The triple xxx’s symbolize the power of the voodoo queen from beyond the grave. You can walk to the cemetery from The French Quarter. To date, due to preservation efforts only guided tours are allowed through the Catholic Diocese Association.
St. Louis Cemetery #3
St. Louis Cemetery #3 is located off of Esplanade Ave. dates back to 1854. St. Louis Cemetery #3 has laid to rest upwards of 10,000 souls. The cemetery is broken up into rows, and there are many multi-story crypts, marble tombs, and wall vaults. The Greek Orthodox tombs are quite aesthetic and mystifying. It’s hard to explain the way in which cemeteries provide a few moments of respite from the noise of the city and one’s own life.
Metairie Cemetery, or Lake Lawn, dates back to 1872 and has laid to rest over 9,000 souls. Lake Lawn is my probably my favorite graveyard to visit because it is so massive and grand. It is also so large that there are actually roads within it to help you navigate through it. You will see the most breathtaking tombs in the world, and you will stand in awe of what is before you.
I love The Weeping Angel tomb, and I visit her each time I visit the cemetery. She is elusive in the sense that everyone searches for her throughout the cemetery and not all can find her. I am always mesmerized when I reach her. The anguish speaks volumes.
I also love the great sphinx and pyramid tomb. This cemetery is so stunning, and it’s filled with decaying beauty all throughout the grounds. I have never seen such beautiful towering marble tombs like I have here. If you want a piece of local history and appreciate architecture, it’s a must see.
You’ll also want to check out Millionaire’s Rowe where you will see rows of decorative and extravagant burial chambers. I love all of the ruins and Classical, Gothic, Greek, and Italian architecture. You also may have a self-guided tour of the grounds. Metairie Cemetery is located off of Pontchartrain Blvd.
Lafayette Cemetery #1
Lafayette Cemetery #1 lies within The Garden District of New Orleans and is one of the cities most beloved cemeteries. Lafayette Cemetery #1 dates back to at least 1833 and has laid to rest upwards of 7,000 souls. There are at least 1,000 gravesites here, and there are ongoing tomb restoration and preservation projects.
Author of the Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice, writes about this cemetery in her vampire chronicles where the famed Lestat’s tomb lies. I walked over to the graveyard after visiting Anne Rice’s home. Getting there by foot, car, or streetcar is easy. You may have a self-guided tour here. I saw many colorful above-ground tombs and rows and rows of wall vaults. The decaying statues in the cemetery are haunting.
Greenwood cemetery dates back to 1852 and showcases ancient above-ground tombs and monuments. Greenwood is a large cemetery and is known for laying to rest over 20,000 souls! Greenwood features many old and beautiful brick and mortar tombs and cast-iron tombs. There are so many stunning vaults, statues, and monuments displayed here.
There are also numerous graves for unidentified Confederate soldiers and burials of British Commonwealth from World War 1. Greenwood Cemetery is located off of City Park Avenue, Metairie Road, and Canal St.
With All My Love,
The Vintage Gypsy
“Deep in earth my love is lying/And I must weep alone.” -Edgar Allen Poe