The ghosts of New Orleans’ St. Louis Cathedral4 min read
The Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France, also called St. Louis Cathedral is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans.
It has a long and storied history in New Orleans, and untold hundreds of thousands of people have spent time here.
It is dedicated to Louis IX (25 April 1214 – 25 August 1270), commonly known as Saint Louis, and he was King of France from 1226 to 1270.
He enjoyed immense prestige throughout Christendom and was one of the most notable European monarchs of the Middle Ages. His reign is remembered as a medieval golden age in which the Kingdom of France reached an economic as well as political peak. His fellow European rulers esteemed him also highly for his skill at arms, the power and unmatched wealth of his kingdom, but also for his reputation for fairness and moral integrity.
He was a reformer and developed a process of royal justice in which the king was the supreme judge to whom anyone could in theory appeal for the amendment of a judgment. He banned trials by ordeal, tried to end the scourge of private wars, and introduced the presumption of innocence to criminal procedures.
And, to enforce his new legal system, he created provosts and bailiffs.
Honoring a vow he had made while praying for recovery during a serious illness, he led the ill-fated Seventh Crusade and Eighth Crusade against the Muslim dynasties that ruled North Africa, Egypt and the Holy Land in the 13th century, but he died from dysentery during the latter.
His admirers through the centuries have regarded Louis IX as the ideal Christian ruler.
He is the only canonized king of France, and there are consequently many places named after him, including our Cathedral.
The ghost of Father Antonio de Sedella, an 18th-century Spanish friar known as “Père Antoine” may (or may not) haunt the alley beside the Cathedral, especially in the early mornings.
Accounts of his apparitions by parishioners and tourists claim that he appears also during Christmas Midnight Mass near the left side of the altar, holding a candle.
If so, he’s got a short commute, as Antoine is buried under the cathedral floor.
Historically he was a Spanish Capuchin Friar who arrived in New Orleans in 1774 and was named Pastor. His generosity and kindness to the people of New Orleans made him very popular, and he was well liked. His death, on January 19th, 1829 was met with a somber and mourning city, and he was laid to rest inside the St. Louis Cathedral 3 days later.
Since his death in 1829, his ghost has been seen in St. Louis Cathedral by an untold number of people.
His ghost is easily recognized, as there is a portrait of him inside the Cathedral.
But he’s not alone.
The cathedral is also said to be haunted by Père Dagobert, a friar who resided in the church and became Pastor of St. Louis Cathedral in 1745. Apparently his voice can be heard chanting the Kyrie on rainy days and, on quiet evenings, after worship, people have seen the ghost walking the aisles of the Cathedral, his head down to the ground, walking silently in sandals.
In any case, beneath the oldest cathedral in continuous use in the United States lay the remains of 13 other high-ranking church officials, as well as an unknown number of faithful New Orleans residents of yesteryear, and the building’s head engineer, who died one year before the church was completed.
Actually, prior to the newest construction of St. Louis Cathedral, the Cathedral itself was used to bury some of New Orleans’ most prominent citizens and members of the Church.
Yep, you heard that right.
So, today, when you visit St. Louis Cathedral you’re walking right over one of New Orleans’ earliest cemeteries!
Despite the original 1727 structure burned down in a 1788 fire, the rebuilt Rococo cathedral has been meticulously maintained for centuries, boasting impressive stained-glass windows, neatly gilded altars, and off-key bells at the top of every hour.
Yes, on April 25, 1909, a dynamite bomb was set off in the cathedral, blowing out windows and damaging galleries.
The following year a portion of the foundation collapsed, necessitating the building’s closure while repairs were made, from Easter 1916 to Easter 1917.
Later, in 2005, the high winds of Hurricane Katrina displaced two large oak trees in St. Anthony’s Garden behind the cathedral, dislodging the ornamental gate. Also the nearby marble statue of Jesus Christ was damaged, losing a forefinger and a thumb, and the winds tore a hole in the roof, allowing water to enter the building and severely damage the Holtkamp pipe organ.
But the heroic building survive still today.
Today, the imposing, three-spired house of worship presides over Jackson Square, dominating the French Quarter’s landscape and offering daily masses, self-guided walking tours, as well as a welcome respite from the summer season’s devilish heat.
You can look for Père Antoine in the alleyway next to the church—it’s named in his honor, given how often he’s said to appear….
Images from web – Google Research