An excerpt from my second book, Louisiana’s Sacred Places: Churches, Cemeteries and Voodoo
The cemetery was named Campo Santo, translated as “holy country.” It opened on August 16, 1876, the feast day of St. Roch. In a Gothic design, the black wrought-iron fence opens to a backdrop of muddy skies and swirling clouds. Cracked cement scarred by years of moist air follow a wide trail toward the chapel.
Cement walkways separate the raised tombs from the mausoleums with rows of drawer-type graves. Near the chapel a row of marble tombs seems to stand at attention with a list of names etched in the facade. Two are gray, while the others are mirror images of tan and brown, each with ceramic flower vases stretched across the front.
On the opposite side of the chapel, some burial sites are less ornate, but are not without character. The oven style concrete mausoleum has a worn wooden shelf across each row for flower vases. An all-day rain forms puddles on the ground, adding even more drama by casting deep pools of color. In the corner, a tall teal inset holds a station of the cross.
The names change and so do the tombs, from a stone crib for a sleeping child to elaborate stonework with ornate chains and iron tassels. Yet, there is beauty in every grave, hope in every prayer, and wonder in every wide-eyed tourist.
St. Roch cemetery, 1725 St. Roch Avenue off of St. Claude Avenue, New Orleans. 504-304-0576. Open Monday through Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Sunday, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Tours available through Save Our Cemeteries, http://www.saveourcemeteries.org.
You may buy copies of this book and more of Deborah Burst’s books www.deborahburst.com