Tuesday, May 12, 2009

NOLA Rocks Part 3: Cemetary

Part of our grand NOLA trip was a bus tour around the city. While bus tours can be painfully touristy, they are a way to see a lot of things in a very short space of time. Ours was no exception. One of the highlights of this trip was a visit to one of New Orleans' famous graveyards. Number Three Cemetary was once situated a good way outside the main part of town, but as they city grew, the area was surrounded. Houses and other buildings now hem the yard in on all sides, and there is even a retirement home with apartments that look out over the graves.

One of the things that makes NOLA cemetaries so unique is the above-ground burials in crypts. This practice came about because the city is built over swamp land, and if one digs a hole, it soon becomes a pond. The early Catholic inhabitants of the city did not seem to think that sinking their loved ones into the swamp constituted proper Christian burial. Go figure.

The actual method by which the cemetaries are used is both shocking and fascinating. A family may own a crypt for hundreds of years, but the actual dimensions of the building (often the size of a garden shed) certainly could not accomodate dozens of bodies. The very first coffin put into the crypt is left there until the next person in the family dies. At that time, the old body is taken out of its coffin and put into a chamber beneath the crypt while the new coffin is put in its place. I'm not sure how I would feel about mixing together with all my dead grandparents, but it seems to work for them.

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