NEW ORLEANS -- The Saint Louis Cathedral is the front door to the City of New Orleans. The iconic church has stood tall in the French Quarter for centuries, and with the tricentennial anniversary of our fine city closing in, we decided to take a look back at the history of this archaic structure.
Archaeologists determined that the first French settlers of Louisiana pitched camp in 1718, right where the Cathedral stands now. The first permanent church was built on Chartres Street in 1727, paying homage to Saint Louis.
This archaic Cathedral has seen a lot over the centuries. In 1788, a fire burned through nearly the entire city, including the church. The church reopened in 1793, after Don Andres Almonaster y Rojas worked out a rebuilding plan with the King of Spain.
In 1850, they tried to build a taller bell tower, but that didn’t go over so well. The walls and roof collapsed. The foundation and facade of Don Almonaster's church still survives today, along with a crucifix.
Other cherished pieces have also stood the test of time, like the baptismal font from the mid-1700s, pre-dating the church that burned in the fire.
And the 4,500 pipes of the organ underwent a $1.2 million upgrade in 2004. They were damaged months later during Hurricane Katrina, but they’ve since been refurbished.
The Cathedral has undergone some trials, tribulations and transformations over the centuries, but some things never change.
"It's become the icon for the city of New Orleans. It's the symbol of that culture of faith -- that gives us our sports teams – like the New Orleans Saints, and our holidays like Mardi Gras. That culture of faith is also what sustains us when we face epidemic, floods and hurricanes -- to come back even stronger than before,” said Brandon Briscoe, a tour guide for the Cathedral.
You can always learn more about the Cathedral and the city’s Catholic heritage at the Old Ursuline Convent Museum. In fact, they just opened a new exhibit on the history of the Cathedral!