Sitting at the corner of North Rampart Street and Conti is where you’ll find New Orleans’ Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. The oldest church in the city, Our Lady of Guadalupe, also known as The Mortuary Chapel of St. Anthony of Padua, dates back to 1826.
The history of Our Lady is an interesting one; when the yellow fever raged through New Orleans, funerals were banned from being held in St. Louis Cathedral, another historic New Orleans Catholic church and at the time the burial-place for many families in the city. Believing that even in death, yellow fever could be spread, the Church was built to hold the victims of this disease. And, while St. Louis Cathedral is considered by many to be the oldest Catholic Church in New Orleans, Our Lady takes the title because the original structure that was St. Louis Cathedral was later torn down and rebuilt.
Our Lady had new life breathed into it when, in 1903, the Dominicans came to the parish. A Father Lorente led the Dominicans as they expanded their faith and churches throughout the area. Although Father Lorente’s work reinvigorated Our Lady, his subsequent death caused the church to be abandoned.
In 1918, the Archbishop requested a priest be sent to Our Lady to renovate and revitalize the church. Our Lady has since been through many ups and downs. A fire in 1944 caused much damage to the church and the rectory, leading to repairs and a new rectory being built. In 1950, the roof timbers collapsed during a heavy rain and again, caused the church to close for repairs.
Today you’ll find Our Lady of Guadalupe Church still standing despite the 2005 Hurricane Katrina and another fire in 2008. The church is, in many ways, similar to the city of New Orleans; it has been around through decades and has survived disease, storms and fires, but it still standing today.