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When you walk around the French Quarter, you can see all kinds of tours going by. There are architectural walking tours, culinary explorations, jazz history tours, honky tonk tours. But within the French Quarter there is a significant landmark that tour guides are unlikely to mention–probably because this landmark isn’t readily visible from neighborhood streets.

What Lies Beneath

Beneath New Orleans’ bustling French Quarter is where you’ll find St. Peter Street Cemetery, which served as New Orleans’ main burial ground during the city’s French and Spanish colonial rule. After St. Peter Street Cemetery got a little too crowded in the wake of several yellow fever outbreaks in 1788, Spanish colonists established a new cemetery, St. Louis Number One, just beyond New Orleans’ city limits. By the turn of the century in 1800, the St. Peter Street Cemetery had officially closed, and the city of New Orleans continued to develop and build on top of the St. Peter Street burial site.

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New Orleans’ Superdome was build atop the foundation of the Girod Street Cemetery.

The St. Peter Street Cemetery isn’t the only burial site to be built upon in New Orleans. According to Charles “Chip” McGimsey, a New Orleans archaeologist at LSU, the Superdome occupies what was once Girod Street Cemetery; it is well known that a section of Canal Boulevard was constructed over a graveyard. That it is not uncommon to build over burial sites in New Orleans is largely a result of the city’s geography. Due to New Orleans’ French Catholic tradition and location below sea level, many cemeteries in New Orleans–and throughout Louisiana–are built above ground.

Known as “cities of the dead,” these above-ground burial structures are part of the city’s unique landscape. With Halloween just around the corner, New Orleans’ historic cemeteries are worth exploring this time of year.

Like most New Orleans architecture, cemeteries in NOLA capture the city’s unique character. Below you’ll find photographs of New Orleans’ famous and lesser-known cemeteries.

When planning your trip to New Orleans, you should definitely check out Save Our Cemeteries, the local non-profit that works to preserve the city’s 31 cemeteries. They also offer some wonderfully informative tours.


Metairie Cemetery

Metairie Cemetary - Naveen Kailas

New Orleans’ famous Metairie cemetery, located on the site of a former race track.

 

Lafayette Cemetery

Lafayette Cemetery

Lafayette is an historic “City of the Dead” which lies prominently in the center of New Orleans’ Lower Garden District.

Nicolas Cage’s Pyramid Tomb

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If Nic Cage ever dies he will be buried inside this controversial New Orleans pyramid.

 

Odd Fellows Rest

Odd Fellows Rest Cemtery

This crumbling New Orleans cemetery is the final resting place for members of a faded secret society.

Marie Laveau’s Tomb

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The final resting place of New Orleans’ most famous voodoo priestess.