The St. Louis Cathedral is one of New Orleans’ most notable landmarks. This venerable building, its triple steeples towering above its historic neighbors, the Cabildo and the Presbytere – looks down benignly on the green of the Square and General Andrew Jackson on his bronze horse and on the block-long Pontalba Buildings with their lacy ironwork galleries. Truly, this is the heart of old New Orleans.
Since 1727 New Orleanians have worshipped in churches on this site. Half a dozen years earlier, the French engineer, Adrien De Pauger, who arrived in the newly founded city on March 29, 1721, designated this site for a church in conformity with the plan of the Engineer-in-Chief of Louisiana, LeBlond de la Tour, who was at the capital, Biloxi.
The new parish church, dedicated to Louis IX, sainted King of France, was thus perhaps the first building in New Orleans of “brick between posts” (bnquete entre poteaux) construction, an effective method of building that continued to be used in Louisiana until at least the middle of the nineteenth century. De Pauger, unfortunately, died on June 21, 1726, before his church was completed. In his will he requested that he be buried within the unfinished building, a request presumably granted.
During the six decades that the church stood, there worshipped within its walls French Governors Perier, Bienville, Vaudreuil and Kerlerec and Spanish Governors Unzaga, Galvez and Miro. In this first little church were baptized the children of the colonists and the children of the slaves. Here were married the lowly and the highborn, and through its doors were borne the mortal remains of the faithful for the burial rites of Holy Mother Church on the last journey to the little cemetery on St. Peter Street.
Perhaps The greatest moment in the history of the St. Louis Cathedral was the visit of Pope John Paul II in September, 1987. Many of the more than one thousand priests, sisters and brothers who packed the Cathedral were greeted personally by the Holy Father. The Holy Father also addressed gatherings of young people and educators before celebrating an outdoor Mass for over 200,000 on the New Orleans lakefront. Click here to purchase a DVD copy of Pope John Paul II’s historic visit to New Orleans.