St. Louis Cathedral. Taken on a cloudy day from Place d’Arms.
The next day…I attended mass held at the St. Louis Cathedral, a minor Basilica. Attending mass there was on my list for a long time. Ever since I used to work in the French Quarter I used to go there to clear my head or just walk around its spacious interior when I had minutes to spare. It was my first time going to church in I don’t know how long, but I’m glad I did. The grandiose inside gives an acoustical touch that enhances the melody of the organ that plays strongly throughout mass. The light floating smell of incense and the beauty of the intricately done stained glass windows lend a certain elegance to the place. I couldn’t help but be captivated by all the neatly tucked away inscriptions in Latin and Old French. The mural above the altar is a depiction of St. Louis speaking to a multitude of people. It says, “St. Louis, Roi de France, annonce la 7ème croisade” (St. Louis, King of France, announces the 7th crusade).
More interesting tidbits I learned about New Orleans on a walking tour of the city. New Orleans, like many colonies, i.e. Australia, Florida, plus others I’m sure, was populated by ex-cons and prostitutes early in its history. When the colony founders asked for more fellow colonists, King Louis opened the jails and freed the poor devils. The murders, rapists and thieves that made up the colony needed women, so ol’ Louis sent the ladies of the night to placate them. For this reason, New Orleans had an extremely high murder rate from early on (not much changed from what I hear), and the population didn’t grow in those early years. Something else I found really interesting, the array of colorful houses in the French quarter isn’t, or at least wasn’t, random. The colors tell a story about the occupants. A pink house is occupied by French Creole. An orange or burgundy house by Spanish Creole. If the shutters on the windows were green or blue it meant that the people inside were Roman Catholic. A yellow house belonged to ‘Free persons of color’, and for them the color of the window shutters signified which language they spoke. Green meant Spanish. I’m not sure what color French speakers used. Purple, grey and gold colors on the houses didn’t mean a damn thing, the occupants didn’t play the game. I doubt very much that this use of color continues, more likely that the current owners just keep painting the house its original color.
St. Louis cathedral, built in the 1800’s, very pretty building as far as American cathedrals go. The style of the outside is an interesting Disney-castle-esque. More interesting is what used to go on the in the Place D’Arms, Plaza de las Armas, in front of it. Apparently this was the spot in town where the guilty where punished. From hangings, to firing squads, to medieval torture. One account was that the extremely guilty were taken there, tied to a wheel, all their bones broken in front of a crowd including kids, and then said children would pour fire ants and other vermin from boxes onto the still alive perpetrator.
Apparently if you walk around the Place d’Arms late at night when there are no people you can hear the moaning of the poor devils who were tortured and killed there. Although all this sounds fantastical, I think I believe in spirits because of an experience I had a few years ago in a faraway country. I’ll relate this story sometime soon.