Voices From Our Past

Hello ! Road Trip followers today I am blogging about a local cemetery tour

Spend some time with voices from the past at the St. Landry Catholic Church Cemetery Tours & Historical Reenactments in the Zydeco Capital of the World, Opelousas. This historical group tour will transport you back in time focusing on a chosen time period in Opelousas‘ history with reenactors who are dressed the part.

For two weekends, community volunteers will share historic portrayals of the families and cultures that shaped Opelousas during these cedar-shaded, one-hour cemetery tours at St. Landry Catholic Church. From its beginnings as a Spanish Fort, Opelousas has beckoned people from all ethnic groups to be part of its colorful history. This cemetery, consecrated in 1798, reminds visitors of historic events and lives lost. Spend some time with voices from the past and listen to their stories of struggle and perseverance. Proceeds from the tours go towards cemetery maintenance

Don’t miss this tour if you can schedule it. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes ( no heels) since the ground is uneven in places.

Burial Styles

There are a number of different burial traditions practiced within the cemetery, each with their own unique origins…

Burial plots are shallow in New Orleans because the water table is very high. Dig a few feet down, and the grave becomes soggy, filling with water. The casket will literally float. … Eventually, New Orleans’ graves were kept above ground, following the Spanish custom of using vaults.

Family Tombs

These are the tombs which are most common in the cemetery and bring rise to the belief that above-ground burial is due directly to the city’s inherent water problems. In fact this style originated in the Mediterranean region thousands of years ago and was introduced to New Orleans and other New World colonies by the French and Spanish “creoles”, which actually means “colonists”.Tombs, mausoleums. and other raised, non-earthen, burial styles are common in most regions of the world with a strong Latin, Roman Catholic tradition, and a theory which is logical for anyone familiar with Southern Europe is that it evolved as a result of “rocky” soil in the region, making it more practical to find or build a burial structure. In French, the word for tomb is “caveau”(cellar), or “caverne”(cave); “una tombe” is also a French term which may be applied. Soil burials are, and always have been, practiced for a number of reasons, the least of which being that paupers without tombs would necessarily be interred into any available ground, especially during the epidemics. Then, as today, more affluent families prefer tombs as a sign of status and culture.

Society Tombs

Originating in the same way as the family tombs, society tombs are for the members of various organizations, and their families. Many religious groups, clubs, fraternal societies, etc., as well as military, law enforcement and fire organizations had their own tombs and “benevolent associations” to handle the wishes of their members. Especially practical for families who could not afford their own family tomb. each vault in these multi-vaulted structures was (and still is, in many cases) assigned to individual families.

Copings

Also common in the cemetery are what are referred to as “copings”, or retaining walls for soil, raising the burial level several feet above the ground. This , as in the case of the tombs, is also not because of water but due to a different cultural tradition originating in the eastern part of the Mediterranean. Some cultures, such as Jewish, Arabic or Protestant, for example,  prefer earthen burial to above-ground. This style is also found in many places around the world. There are also a small number of soil burials flush in the ground found in the cemetery usually surrounded by cast-iron fencing, and a few in-ground vaults.

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