The Oldest Church In Louisiana Dates Back To The 1700s And You Need To See It
Tucked away in Jackson Square between the Cabildo and the Presbytere lies one of the most historic buildings in Louisiana and one of the most iconic in New Orleans. The St. Louis Cathedral is the oldest cathedral in the United States, and it’s worth your while to venture over to New Orleans to check it out.
The St. Louis Cathedral that stands today was primarily constructed in the 1850s, but the history behind the building goes back much further.
In fact, three Roman Catholic Churches have stood on the site since 1718.
The first was a basic wooden building, which was torn down in favor of a larger brick and timber church that was completed in 1727.
Unfortunately, that building was destroyed in the Great New Orleans Fire of 1788. The image above shows an old architectural drawing of St. Louis Church in 1794, before it became the cathedral.
It was almost a year before the ruins of the church were cleared away and construction on a new church would begin.
Construction of the next church began in 1789 and was completed in 1794. In 1793, the church reached cathedral rank, making it the oldest cathedral in the country.
In 1834, the congregation decided to enlarge and expand the cathedral to meet the needs of the growing community.
In 1849, the diocese decided to move ahead with these plans, hiring John Patrick Kirwan for the construction while using J.N.B de Pouilly’s previously designed plans for the renovations.
It was determined that everything should be demolished except the lateral walls and the lower portions of the towers on the front of the building.
As construction continued, it was determined that the walls would indeed have to be demolished, and during construction in 1850, the central tower collapsed causing an estimated $20,000 in damages. Both de Pouilly and Kirwan were replaced and, unfortunately, not much of the beautiful Spanish Colonial structure survived. However, the bell from the 1819 tower is still in use today and rings out on the hour.
The Cathedral is open to visitors daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. for self-guided tours. Guided tours are available with prior reservations. There is also a daily mass beginning at 12:05 p.m.
The St. Louis Cathedral is located at 615 Pere Antoine Alley, New Orleans, LA 70116. For more information, visit the cathedral's website
Have you ever been inside the St. Louis Cathedral? Let us know in the comments below!
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