“The first thing you notice about New Orleans are the burying grounds - the cemeteries - and they're a cold proposition, one of the best things there are here.” - Bob Dylan
What makes a graveyard attract more than a hundred thousand visitors each year? In New Orleans, most will say “The Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau”. It’s true that the legend of a powerful and influential voodoo priestess has enchanted spectators since her death in 1881.
Tall tails were weaved by locals and visitors resulting in a tradition that encouraged visitors to leave their mark behind in the form of XXX on the tomb in exchange for a wish granted. With more than thirty years of graffiti, the tomb of Marie Laveau finally received a much-deserved restoration in 2014.
St. Louis Cemetery #1 isn’t the oldest cemetery in New Orleans. The original graveyard was located two blocks away in the French Quarter and is now home to condos and a swimming pool. Unlike the original St. Peter's Cemetery, St. Louis Cemetery #1 was established in Spanish Colonial Rule and built in a swamp, resulting in strange above-ground tombs that resemble “Cities of the Dead”. Above-ground burials are efficient since each tomb can be used countless times.
Beside a renowned voodoo priestess, who else is buried in St. Louis Cemetery #1?
- In 2010, actor Nicolas Cage purchased a lot of land in the cemetery and commissioned a pyramid-shaped tomb to be built as his future final resting place
- The plaintiff from the landmark 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court decision on civil rights
- A womanizing gambling political millionaire who’d challenge anyone to a duel
- An architect who allegedly became one of Jean Lafitte's pirates
- Earliest World Champion of Chess
- Chief of the Golden Star Hunters and President of the Mardi Gras Indian Council
- The Governors Wives who both died of Yellow Fever
- The first mayor of New Orleans also doubled as a wealthy pioneer of the sugar industry
- New Orleans first African-American mayor
Recent changes to St. Louis Cemetery #1 require that all guest must be accompanied by a licensed tour guide working for a tour company registered and approved through the Archdiocese of New Orleans. While this may seem strange, supervision and education by a licensed guide have reduced the amount of desecration by tourists and vandals to the sacred burial ground over the past few years. The money paid to the Archdiocese by each tour company also pays for full-time security at St. Louis Cemetery #1.
Join us as we walk amongst the orphaned and abandoned tombs, the disrepair, and decay. The architecture and symbolism found throughout the cemetery are utterly fascinating. Did you know that a flame or candle can represent the spirit?
Royal Carriages provides the most affordable tour of St. Louis #1. Our 1-hour Bare Bones Walking Tour of St. Louis Cemetery #1 is only priced at $15 per person. While other tour companies have tour groups of up to 25 participants, we believe in providing smaller group experience. Often times our groups are no larger than 10 participants total.